Ghana Health Service outlines sector’s response to cholera epidemic
The plan places emphasis on effective surveillance systems, effective case management, improved environmental sanitation, and public education, among other strategies, and has been disseminated to key stakeholders throughout the country.
Dr Joseph Amankwa, Director of Public Health at GHS made this known in a statement released to the Ghana News Agency in Accra at the weekend.
Other measures adopted by the health authorities to bring the situation under control include the provision of treatment sites in health facilities for managing cholera cases, the procurement of drugs and laboratory reagents for diagnosis and case management, and the extension of technical support by National Response Teams to the regions and districts.
The Director said even though the health sector’s response to the epidemic had been swift, the incidence remained on the increase, and cited indiscriminate defecation, urban slums, poor access to potable water, poor environmental sanitation and selling of food near open drainages as major risk factors undermining the efforts of health workers to contain the epidemic.
He called for an integrated multi-sectoral action for the successful prevention and control of the epidemic since most of the risk factors were beyond the control of the health sector. “For instance, the enforcement of bye-laws on sanitation and food hygiene as well as the provision of potable water are critical for the control of cholera outbreaks”, he stated.
He said efforts at getting other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to provide the needed essential services as quickly as possible had proven very difficult, whiles the timely release of adequate financial and material resources needed for the implementation of key activities continued to be a major challenge.
Dr. Amankwa advised the general public to boil or disinfect drinking water with chlorine, wash their hands with soap after visiting the latrine and before the preparation or eating of food, wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them, and maintain good personal hygiene and clean surroundings.
They should also avoid defecating in open places, especially near water sources, and eating cold food that had been left uncovered.
Cholera is a bacterial intestinal disease characterized by the sudden onset of profuse watery diarrhea, occasional vomiting, rapid dehydration and circulatory collapse.
It is transmitted through ingestion of water contaminated with faeces, and vomitus of patients or carriers; eating contaminated foods like cooked rice, milk and sea foods; and eating raw fruits and vegetables, especially those grown by irrigation with waste-water.
So far, the epidemic has affected 30 districts in the Greater Accra, Eastern, Central and Upper West Regions, where a total of 3,915 cases had been recorded as at March 16, 2011.