Amid the various concerns expressed and plans suggested to the general public on the possibility of the Ebola virus coming to Ghana, we need to revisit some of these issues for as it is said, knowledge is power.
This is in order that we are better equipped to prevent ebola from becoming one of our problems.
We will stress the importance of the signs and symptoms as already given;
1)Fever, you will have a temperature more or less than 37◦c /98.6◦F and feel hot/cold and lose appetite, you will not want to eat.
2)You will feel tired, with pains in the joints and all over your body such that you want to stay in bed with your symptoms.
3)You will also get a severe headache and need to take paracetamol to stop it.
4)You will feel like vomiting all the time and soon you will feel thirsty as you start vomiting. This may lead to a sore throat and the vomit may contain some blood.
5)You will also be coughing alongside your vomit. The cough may contain some blood.
6)When you pass toilet much of it will be water including spots of blood and that is diarrhoea.
7)You may also get a rash, like pimples on your skin or on your entire body.
8)Bleeding from nose, mouth, ear, eyes and other body openings, will mean you are really close to death.
Who are at risk to these symptoms:
These signs and symptoms do not happen in the order described above but any of them raise concerns especially if you have travelled to any of the known affected Countries ie. Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, or if you have been in contact you with travellers in and out of Ghana's borders and towns.
a)Borders and towns, of which the known ones are: Aflao and Wli falls in the East bordering Togo. Elubo, Osei Kodwokrom and further north Gonnokrom to the west of Ghana. Paga in the North East and Hamile at North West.
These towns receive visitors from abroad and feed into the cities of Accra, Takoradi, Sunyani, Kumasi and Tamale respectively.
b)Fruit Bats are known to be the host or carriers of three types of the ebola virus. Avoid partly eaten fruits with holes in them, some of which appear good to eat either on the trees or having fallen on the ground. Do not try to trap bats or to eat their meat.
b)Farmers and hunters may come into contact with animals some of which may be ill or dead but may appear eatable eg. a trapped deer or a monkey which fell from a tree and died. These are sources that can harbour the virus. We must be aware that an animal which cannot run when chased in the bush will be very ill and may be Ebola infected. So avoid eating them.
Above all, dead animals should be buried on sight and all bush meat should be handled with care in order that their blood or water from their mouth, nose or toilet/faeces do not come in contact with your body.
d)Ebusua do Efunu; Families treat the dead well. Sudden unexplained deaths by a family member should be treated with caution since they might have died from any of the above mentioned signs and symptoms.
In effect such death should be reported to enable full health screening by the Health authorities under WHO guidelines.
Lack of insight and Denial.
It should be a responsibility of all citizens to understand and bear in mind all the signs and symptoms of the ebola disease. This is because not everybody would be able to accept the illness when symptoms clearly indicate they are critically ill as most of the symptoms are similar to that of cholera, malaria and typhoid fever, just to mention a few. Insight relates to the ability to recognise that one is ill and to seek treatment.
The person should be able to know that not seeking treatment will have consequences on their immediate family, relatives and of course the general public.
Denial in our culture takes the form of, ''Oh yes, I have a fever and I will ask Asimesi to buy me some para. later''. Reality suggests that no one wants the ebola stigma should they and family survive the illness, hence the denial. Please seek help now when you have any of the symptoms, rather than later. We all know that prevention is better than cure.
The known fact is that ebola infects through human to human contact. How does this happen?
Let us mention some probable scenarios:
Ebola is not known to be an airborne disease so that you cannot breathe the illness into your body.Infection is made possible through contamination with human body fluids. These can be sumarised as follow; Blood coming through vomit or from the person's body openings, from spitting or saliva, from sneezing, toilet/faeces or diarrhoea, urine in bedding, toilet seats or on the floor, during sex and dead bodies in the home prior to burial.
Infection happens when you live with and try to clean the mess created in the home/compound, a public facility/toilet, a loved one/friend or family member of an infected person and you get in contact with any of their discharges.
We should note that, during the First outbreak of the ebola virus, in Sudan, Zaire, DR Congo and Uganda, Doctors and nurses in direct contact with patients suffered the most casualties. With the introduction of the needed protective outfit and under the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, Doctors and nurses are now better protected and are able to care with confidence, for the ill ebola patient.
The submission here is that close contact will always be the immediate family members, couples, friends, acquaintances, travellers, lovers etc. They may try to help the patient/ill person but be at risk to themselves through contamination.
We suggest the following measures:
Knowing that the disease will erupt within 2 to ten days on being infected and with a possible death within 21 days, armed with your knowledge of the signs and symptoms of the ebola virus one should immediately do the following:
a)Ask your nearest relative or friend to inform/report your condition to the nearest health care post/facility, clinic or hospital.
b)Having observed the illness in an infected person, one should advice the person that they will report their condition to the care services to establish contact and for them to be hospitalised for treatment.
c)The infected should as much as possible stay at home once their condition is known that action is being taken by the care services. This will stop cross infection among the immediate public.
d)On conveyance of the patient to the host clinic or hospital. The host should in all respect disinfect the immediate residence of the patient and the transporting vehicle thereafter.
e)All of us should observe cleanliness both at home and when in the community. Wash your hands when necessary with soap and water and keep a disinfectant like parazone or bleach in the home, just in case you will need it. Pouring bleach or parazone on any discharges from a patient will kill the viruses.
Whilst we attempt to be our 'brother's keeper' in this highly charged atmosphere of 'fear and panic' we should also develop an OBSERVE, LOOK, and REPORT culture. Where symptoms are seen on a person, report immediately to a nearest health post/facility.
Information about an infected person would be needed and traced to people who have come into contact with the person prior to their admission to a quarantine health setting. Tracing helps to prevent further outbreaks and stem the spread of the disease.
Tracing would be followed by staff trained on how this is done.
The general public must have the awareness that contact with an infected person needs immediate reporting to the Health care setting.
When dealing with an infected person, it is suggested that one should stay from a distance of 2 metres or six feet from them.
Ebola is real and as has happened in some neighbouring countries and could happen in Ghana. However, with knowledge our neighbours are managing their problem and we can prevent it from being a problem here in Ghana. The Authorities are working and leading us; our cooperation with them will win the day.
In the move to heighten prevention and awareness, HEOW are able and prepared to advocate through seminars, discussions, forums and events.
Call:024 918 1786
026 563 8504
G. Awere Nyante Board Chairman
Dr. Sam Anim Addo Executive Director
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