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Opinions of Sunday, 22 April 2018

Columnist: Augustina Dansu

Publicity on Lassa fever inadequate

This deadly viral infectious disease that kills its victim after an incubation period of 6 to 21 days, is a bit worrying to note that there is little publication on it.

Even though fact sheets of World Health Organization (WHO) have clearly indicated that the disease is endemic in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Benin, Nigeria, Ghana and probably other West African countries, how many average Ghanaians have knowledge of its existence in our motherland since 2011 with few confirmed cases in the Eastern and Ashanti regions?

In February this year, a 26-year old man who suddenly took ill, died within 5 days of severe symptoms manifestations.

It was at this point that press release on Lassa Fever started circulating on some social media platforms, especially WhatsApp.

So I ask,..... “should there be fatal evidence before the right thing will be done?”

What about the usual saying, “prevention is better than cure?”

Anyway, I took it upon myself to engage the ordinary Ghanaian citizen on a normal day on our streets and in commercial vehicles to find out how much they know about Lassa Fever but interestingly only 1 out of the 11 people I interacted with, remember seeing the post on his phone but have not read the needful information.

The other 10 had no clue at all.

I personally entered into a pharmacy to purchase a drug over-the-counter and had the opportunity to make some findings on the pharmacist’s knowledge on the disease. My findings were completely negative.

I did not conclude immediately. So on another day, I accompanied a relative to hospital and in going through normal procedures right from the reception, through Out-Patient-Department (OPD) to the doctor's consulting room, I never saw a single poster on Lassa Fever at the community hospital. I felt ill at eaze.

At this juncture, so many questions I strongly seek answers to flooded my mind.

With the press release in circulation, is that just enough?

Whose specific responsibility is it to ensure that there is ample education?

And about National Communication for Civic Education (NCCE), where are they?

Is the commission even functioning at all or is their work periodically defined every four years?

We have various communication mediums available but only one or two has been used and I am yet to see or hear adverts or commercials on Lassa Fever on our televisions and radios.

To cut a long story short, in my humble opinion, I hope authorities will not wait for an epidemic before they give the needed attention this issue deserves.

I am therefore appealing to the authorities and ministries responsible and other affiliated health facilities to come aboard facilitate intensive education and campaign through all available media platforms to create awareness in order to avoid any unwanted break out in Ghana.

God bless us all.