The government and donor partners, are therefore, making frantic efforts at addressing the issue while the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and its partners have embarked on a number of measures to contain the situation.
In some few years back, the country was nearly declared polio-free as it had chalked a lot of successes in eradicating the disease, and so the current trend is disturbing for most stakeholders in the health sector.
Briefing journalists on the status of the polio disease in the country, Dr Franklin Asiedu-Bekoe, Director, Diseases Control, GHS, said the new virus started as a case from the environment in Tamale and later some cases were seen in humans.
He said as at now there have been 10 cases reported in humans while some viruses from the environment have been isolated.
Dr Asiedu-Bekoe was speaking on the sidelines of the Second Ghana Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Trainings Programme (GFELTP) and Scientific Conference and Competency Graduation held in Accra where 58 health professionals involving frontline, intermediate and advanced level trainees graduated after going through various levels of training.
He said following the Tamale outbreak, “as an intervention, we have had a number of vaccination exercises in several regions and districts.
“We have vaccinated the whole of the Northern Region, Upper East and Greater Accra and we are going to do some vaccination in Oti and Bono Ahafo Regions come next week.”
He said hopefully, early next year, the GHS would start a nationwide polio vaccination campaign to cover the whole country, adding that a lot of work was also being done by the health partners to ensure that there were no complications or minimal effects with the current vaccines.
“We are using both the oral and injectable polio vaccines in the country currently,” he said.
Explaining the seeming upsurge in polio cases, Dr Asiedu-Bekoe said the world has been polio-free for most countries excerpt for Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but until recently, there had been a surge of the disease in some African countries including Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, and Togo.
“Apparently, there was a gap that has arisen because some children who were supposed to be vaccinated were not. The thinking was that we thought the global immunity was huge enough to protect us against the disease.
“Unfortunately some of the children were prone, and they are those who have gotten the disease. And that is why we are going to do this nationwide vaccination campaign to protect all the children who were left out from an earlier planned vaccination exercise, so that the protection will be assured”.
He said children from nine months up to four years would be covered in the nationwide campaign while those under five would be given the oral polio vaccine.
He explained that Ghana was now doing a multiple-prone approach to address the threat, which included “ensuring that our vaccination is intact”.
There was also the surveillance system, which was being made very sensitive to be able to comb all the communities and health facilities to detect if the disease was present anywhere while the third approach was ensuring a clean environment.
According to Dr Asiedu-Bekoe, keeping a clean environment was very important as Polio was a faecal-oral disease and so “we need to make sure that our environment is clean so that children will not go and pick the polio virus from the soil and put them in their mouths.
“So these are the approach we are to use to make sure that the polio menace does not get out of hands. But we are certain that we will actually be able to get polio eradicated globally.
He gave the assurance that, the combined effort of government and other partners like UNICEF, WHO, Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Rotary Club were all on board in the fight against polio.
Mr Fred Osei Sarpong, Immunisation Focal Person, World Health Organisation, said with polio cases being reported in Angola, Nigeria, Benin and other neighbouring countries, “Ghana isn’t safe.”
“The virus is in the sub-region that is why we have to make sure everyone is protected, that is why we will call on all caregivers to make sure they send their kids for vaccination. Once your child is protected you don’t have a cause to worry”.
He said children without protection were going down with the disease so all parents should avail their children to ensure that they were all vaccinated and protected from the virus that was in circulation.