THE H1N1 influenza situation in Ghana is said to be under control because health professionals are effectively offering health care services to contain the situation.
Since the pandemic broke out in the country in August 2009, health professionals have been able to identify the H1N1 virus, embarked on surveillance and also effectively managed all reported cases. These have so far yielded positive results since unlike other countries, Ghana has not recorded any deaths from the influenza.
The Minister of Health, Dr Benjamin Kunbour, said at a recent press conference that all 513 cases which had so far been confirmed had been mild and majority of them successfully managed at homes, adding that no single death had been recorded.
What is important at the moment is to ensure that people follow the simple advise given by health professionals so that we continue to manage the situation since there is no vaccine in the country at the moment. Notable among these precautionary measures are frequent washing with soap or alcohol-based hand cleaners, not exchanging used handkerchiefs from people with flu-like symptoms, as well putting an end to indiscriminate waving of such used handkerchiefs or such materials since droplets which settle on such materials could fall on others and therefore spread the infection.
It is also important for the sick to stay away from other people in order not to infect them. And again, there should be a distance of about one metre between an infected person and others to prevent the spread of the virus which could occur through sneezing or coughing.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in Accra, the acting Deputy Director of Public Health at the Greater Accra Regional Health Directorate, Dr (Mrs) Vera Opata, said in addition to management of the disease, there had been series of public education to sensitise both health workers and the general public to help contain the disease.
She explained that although there had been an increase in cases in recent times, health workers were on the ground offering the needed care to contain the situation.
She said at the moment, the most important tool to use in curbing the spread of the disease was education, adding that each person should be sensitised to how to protect him or herself from contracting the virus.
The best prevention, according to Dr Opata, was for individuals to observe regular hand-washing with soap, especially after shaking hands with others and before touching the mouth, nose and the eye.
She also pointed out that people should avoid close contact with others suffering from any flu-like symptom or what is referred to as cold or catarrh.
She said the reason was because the disease spread from one person to another through droplets released during coughing or sneezing as in any flu.
According to Dr Opata, it was safer for people who suffered from flu-like symptoms to report immediately to health facilities for early diagnoses and treatment.
The symptoms include fever and cough, sore throat, catarrh, body aches, headache, and in some cases vomiting and diarrhoea.
Complications of the disease include pneumonia and difficulty in breathing. Death may occur if severe complication has taken place.
Dr Opata said the declaration of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that the H1N1 influenza was a pandemic was an indication that the disease was currently a global problem affecting all countries of the world.
She said now that the virus had spread all over the world, it was up to the individual countries to contain its spread as much as practicable and pointed out that the Ghanaian health authorities were taking the necessary measures to contain the influenza.
When asked to comment on surveillance at the country’s entry points, Dr Opata explained that there were measures to test people who arrived at the ports with signs of the flu and added that there was also the indication that the disease had transcended to communities and must, therefore, be tackled from within.
She said there was the likelihood that less people might end up getting the virus now that schools were on break and many of the students who might be infected would stay at home and by this minimise transmission.
She suggested that rooms for social gatherings should be well ventilated and advised that sick people should stay away from crowds or work places to protect others from being infected.
She reiterated the need for people to wash their hands frequently with soap, especially when they got in touch with others or touched objects which were likely to be contaminated.
Dr Opata said sick people should cover their mouths with handkerchief or tissue papers when sneezing or coughing and those used tissue papers should be properly disposed of.
She added that those without handkerchiefs should cover their noses and mouths with their arms when coughing or sneezing.
She stressed that the H1N1 virus, just like all other viruses causing influenza, could live for hours after it had been released from an infected person, adding that it was important for objects likely to carry such viruses to be washed to eliminate them.