Meningitis outbreak: Health NGOs suggest local content messages

The Ghana Coalition of Health NGOs has advised the Ghana Health Service (GHS) to intensify awareness of the Pneumococcal Meningitis outbreak in localised messages.

The Coalition believes this would facilitate public education about the disease in the communities where the disease has struck.

President of Health NGOs, Gilbert Benarko, says although the Ghana Health Service has been proactive since the disease struck in the Brong Ahafo Region three weeks ago more work needs to be done to contain it.

Dr Benarko says the Coalition’s assessment of the situation in communities that have recorded the disease shows there has not been adequate education about the disease.

“We need to have local content messages to communicate effectively in the communities so that we can generate demand for people to visit the health facilities in the case of any suspected case,” Dr Bernako said.

He spoke via phone on PM Express on the Joy News Channel (Multi TV), Tuesday.

Eight people died three weeks ago in the Brong Ahafo Region following the outbreak of the disease.

Since then two other regions – the Northern and Ashanti regions – have recorded deaths related to the disease. The disease has so far claimed claimed 33 lives in the three regions.

The Ghana Health Service maintains the situation is under control, allaying public fears of a possible epidemic. However, the Ghana Coalition of Health NGOs believe it is not enough for the Ghana Health Service to give assurances.

Dr Bernako says members of the Coalition who have been combing affected areas in the three regions identified a weak interaction between disease control unit of the Ghana Health Service and other health allies.

He notes that a stronger interaction would ensure intensified surveillance system.

“We need to get WHO technical and financial support because it is done elsewhere and WHO has experience,” he told show host, Nana Ansah Kwao IV.

He also suggests that chiefs and media houses especially at affected regions and across the country must be involved in efforts to control the diseases.

Dr Franklin Asiedu-Bekoe
Head of Surveillance of the Ghana Health Service, Dr Franklin Asiedu-Bekoe, who was the guest on PM Express Tuesday, said the recommendations by the Coalition of Health NGOs were laudable.

He was however quick to point out that the health service and the WHO were already in close interaction.

He revealed that the current dry season has facilitated the spread of the disease, adding not all 33 deaths reported are the result of Pneumococcal Meningitis.

Click on audio link listen part a part of the show.

Quick facts:
1. Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meninges). Causes include bacterial, viral, parasites and even chemical. Bacterial meningitis is caused by various bacterial pathogens. Neisseria meningitides, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemphilus influenza type b represents the triad responsible for over 80% of all cases of bacterial meningitis.

Note, this is not Epidemic Meningococcal Disease or CSM, which is caused by Neisseria meningitides, which has potential for massive and widespread outbreaks.

Meanwhile, with this kind of meningitis, fatality is high but potential for massive spread is low.

2. Transmission or spread of Pneumococcal Meningitis is by direct contact, including respiratory droplets from nose and throat of infected persons or carriers. Carrier rates may be as high as 25% during endemic periods and as high as 50% during epidemics. Incubation period varies from 2 to 10 days, an average of 3-4 days.

Pneumococcal bacteria also spread through direct contact with secretions from the nose and throat. The bacteria spread through close, direct physical contact: kissing, coughing or sneezing. They also spread through saliva.

3. Signs and symptoms of meningitis include sudden onset of severe headache, fever, vomiting, neck stiffness and photophobia (dislike for light). Other symptoms include lethargy, coma and convulsions. In babies, there may be bulging of the anterior fontanelle (soft part of the bead). If you notice these symptoms, kindly report to the nearest health facility.

4. You must avoid overcrowding, drink enough water to prevent dryness of the throat, prevent cough and sneezing etiquettes.

Other preventive measures include avoiding mosquito bite, sleeping in insecticide treated bed nets, environmental cleanliness and preventing stagnation of water in tins and tyres.

5. Most cases of Pneumococcal meningitis are in children under two years of age, elderly adults and people with risk factors:

- Lack of spleen (removed due to accident or sickle cell anaemia)

- Suppression of immune system from cancer therapy, organ transplants, AIDS, steroid treatment

- Chronic heart, lung or kidney disease
- Diabetes
- Alcoholism or liver disease
- Smoking, second hand smoke
- Skull fractures, head surgery, or skull malformation

Pneumococcal meningitis is treated with high doses of antibiotics.

Story by Ghana | Myjoyonline.com | George Nyavor | [email protected]


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