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Opinions of Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Columnist: Anim-Mensah, Alexander

Ebola May be Prevalent at the Coastal Areas

: Ministry of Health and the Government to Prioritize Screening

Flights have been banned to Ghana from Ebola prone areas (“Ebola: Ghana bans all flights from Nigeria, others”
http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=319539 August 2, 2014) and Ivory Coast has blocked borders to Liberia to prevent returning refugees from entering the country; all as measures to prevent the spread of Ebola. While securing the air and land as to prevent the spread of Ebola, have we thought about from the sea or waterways? Ghana’s shoreline spans from Ivory Coast to Togo.

Greater portion of the Liberian fishing community are mostly Ghanaians and may include Ghanaians from the coastal areas of Axim, New Takoradi, Shama, Komenda, Edina, Gomoa Fete, Nyanyano, Saltpond, Senya Bereku, Awutu, Winneba to name a few. These fishermen make regular trips to Liberia and the neighboring Sierra Leone and back using boats and canoes with outboard motors.

I believe the current epidemic and scares of Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone may cause an increased influx of returning home fishermen with families and friends to flee from this deadly disease. This increases the possibility of existence of victims and carriers of Ebola at these coastal areas of Ghana. It will be great if authority of Ghana are able to proper screen these returnees before entry.

Generally, it is known that Ebola incubation period is anywhere from 2-21 days with the average of 5-8 days. This means carriers could to show early or late symptoms. However, in my view, there could be situations where a carrier might show symptoms after 21 days or may show no symptoms at all. While awareness on early reporting is necessary for increased survival chances and prevent spreading; are these returning fishermen, families and friends willing to report any case? Will the fear of being quarantined or “black eye” on families seen as carriers have any issue on reporting cases? Intensifying awareness, urging suspected victims to report cases and/or individuals reporting suspected cases while making health posts accessible for screening will be necessary.
While there are no cases of Ebola in Ghana, an absolutely no cases or steps to prevent spreading in event is what all of us should push for. Absolute no cases could involve searching the length and breadth of Ghana for victims, educating on reporting suspected cases as soon as possible while instituting proactive measures. Ghana being highly alert to fight Ebola is excellent as an article on Ghanaweb point outs “Ghana ready to fight Ebola - Health Minister” (http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/health/artikel.php?ID=319268, July 31, 2014). We really need to be prepared, cautious and serious to prevent incidences since the consequences of having several Ebola cases in Ghana could further cripple the already crippled economy. Knowing the “dos and don’ts” about Ebola might not make it scary as well as take unnecessary measures.
Setting up Ebola centers in Accra, Kumasi and Tamale (“Ebola: Ghana bans all flights from Nigeria, others” http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=319539 August 2, 2014) is an excellent initial step because of accessibility, however, the initial three (3) centers may not be sufficient to serve the whole country if we are really prepared. Strategically, these three (3) locations could pose the risk of spreading the virus; this is because victims have to move or need to be moved from all corners of Ghana to densely populated Accra, Kumasi and/or Tamale to be treated. This may be scary and could spread the disease. In my view, the several supporting centers proposed in the fight of Ebola should start surfacing at strategic areas including bordering regions, major points of entries especially Takoradi which borders Ivory Coast, Aflao which boarders Togo, airport area to name a few and not forgetting the fishing communities with possible in flux from Ebola prone areas. We are fighting Ebola from entering Ghana by land, air and waterways and it should be a collective process.
In conclusion, Ministry of Health and the government should make it a priority to investigate and prevent possible cases of Ebola at these coastal areas including Axim, New Takoradi, Shama, Komenda, Edina, Gomoa Fete, Nyanyano, Saltpond, Senya Bereku, Awutu, Winneba to name a few to curb possible spread if any. Screening the returnees will be necessary for safety. Let be doers than just saying, be proactive than reactive, and be active than passive for it will pay. It will be very sad to see a family member and/or friend die out of negligence or ignorance while you only stare on without able to offer any help or distant yourself because of fear of contracting the disease. The consequences are huge and a stitch in time will save nine. Let be strategic in our operations.
God bless

Alexander Anim-Mensah, PhD
Dayton Ohio
alexraymonda@yahoo.com