With more than 480 cases of the deadly H1N1 influenza already recorded in Ghana since August 2009, officials of the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) have raised a flag about a possible outbreak of the disease.
In a statement signed by the National Co-ordinator of the NADMO, Mr Kofi Portuphy, NADMO said the threat had been heightened by the sporadic outbreaks in a number of educational institutions in the Greater Accra, Eastern, Northern and Central regions, leading to their closure in the past few weeks.
The organisation has, therefore, cautioned the public to minimise crowding at social events, especially those meant for children.
“The most alarming fact is that minors and children in our society are the most vulnerable group. The recent outbreaks which led to suspension of classes meant that most children from these schools may be incubating the disease without showing any sign or symptoms and therefore could easily infect others,” it stated.
It continued that due to the mode of transmission, crowding at social events, especially for children coming from different schools, would be highly fertile grounds for easy spread of the disease to the family members, friends and the community.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday on the issue, the Director of Public Health of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Joseph Amankwah, said it was important for the public to support health workers to contain the spread of the disease by following the necessary advice.
Dr Amankwah said regular hand-washing with soap, especially after shaking hands with others and before touching the mouth, nose and the eye could prevent one from getting the virus.
Another measure, according to the Director, was for people to avoid close contact with others suffering from any flu-like symptom or what is referred to as cold or catarrh.
He said that was because the disease spread from one person to another through droplets released during coughing or sneezing as in any flu.
Dr Amankwah reiterated that people could become infected by touching surfaces or holding objects contaminated with the influenza viruses and touching the afore-mentioned parts of the bodies without first washing their hands.
He also urged people to report to the nearest hospital immediately they suffered from any of the symptoms of the influenza for early detection and treatment.
The symptoms include fever, cough or sore throat, body aches, headache, chills (shivering), and fatigue 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 Amankwah pointed out that infected individuals could prevent the spread of the pandemic influenza to others by staying at home, if not on admission, and also limiting contact with others as much as possible
“Sick people should cover their mouth with handkerchief or tissue paper when sneezing or coughing and tissue papers used should be properly disposed off and handkerchiefs or the other materials used be washed with soap, dried and replaced as often as required,” he stated.
Dr Amankwah stated that handkerchiefs or such materials of sick persons should not be exchanged or used by others.