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Opinions of Sunday, 23 October 2005

Columnist: Ayiku, Charles Nii

Cholera Control In Ghana

Cholera remains a global threat and is one of the key indicators of social development. While the disease no longer poses a threat to countries with minimum standards of hygiene, it remains a challenge to countries where access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation cannot be guaranteed. Almost every developing country faces cholera outbreaks or the threat of a cholera epidemic including Ghana.

I was not surprised when I read about the outbreak of Cholera in some parts of Accra. Reports of Cholera are trickling in and according to the Director of Health Services in the Greater Accra Region, over a hundred cases have already been reported including deaths. Other regions would soon start reporting.

For those who don?t know about cholera, it is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It has a short incubation period and produces an enterotoxin that causes a copious, painless, watery diarrhea that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not promptly given. Vomiting also occurs in most patients. Most persons infected with V. cholerae do not become ill, although the bacterium is present in their faeces for 7-14 days. When illness does occur, about 80-90% of episodes are of mild or moderate severity and are difficult to distinguish clinically from other types of acute diarrhoea. Less than 20% of ill persons develop typical cholera with signs of moderate or severe dehydration. With these explanations, I believe we all need to take an effective step in controlling this widespread disease. These steps should not be left solely on the government. Ghanaians both home and abroad should help spread information about the outbreak of cholera to their relatives back home. They should explain to them the causes and how dangerous it is and also encourage them to keep their environment clean.

For the authorities, I know they are doing their best but I have the following suggestions for them-

? They should encourage an improved surveillance using data to identify high risk areas and guide intervention.

? Provide evidence based support to regions for preparedness and response

? Gain evidence on the use of Oral Cholera Vaccines as an additional public health tool to diminish incidence of cholera in high risk areas and vulnerable groups;

Finally,linking health and management of the environment in order to improve access to safe water for vulnerable populations and diminish incidence of waterborne diseases



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