Friday, April 09, 2010
WITH increase in the cases of H1N1 influenza in the country, the public has been advised not to ignore the threat but do well to protect themselves from being infected.
As of Sunday, April 4, 2010, there had been a total of 480 confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza recorded in Ghana. Fortunately, no death has so far been recorded.
A World Health Organisation (WHO) report posted on December 7, 2009 indicated that globally, a total of more than 1. 4 million cases had been recorded, out of which more than 25,000 deaths had occurred.
The H1N1 influenza, commonly refereed to as swine flu, is a disease caused by a virus that affects the respiratory system. It first broke out in April 2009 and has been declared a pandemic by the WHO.
A pandemic, according to the world health body, is a disease that spreads over a whole country or the world.
Ghana started recording cases in August, 2009 and the highest hit is the country’s educational institutions with the Lincoln Community School in Accra being the first to have been affected by the flu in the latter part of the year. Since then, the virus has spread to the Okuapeman Senior High School in the Eastern Region, the Merton Primary School in Accra, the Tema Parents School and also the Achimota Basic School.
At the end of March, 2010, reports indicated that some students at the Mfantsipim School in Cape Coast and Ayipeh L/A Primary and Junior High School in the Asikuma Odoben Brakwa District in the Central Region had also been infected.
To help the public know how to protect themselves from the influenza, officials of the Greater Accra Regional Health Directorate has intensified efforts at sensitising the public through press releases, radio talk shows, public durbars, as well as interacting with pupils and students in schools.
Incidentally, the Greater Accra Region was the first to record the presence of the virus in the country. An official of the regional health directorate told the Daily Graphic that about 163 cases had been confirmed in the region by March 23, 2010.
Accordingly, a statement from the directorate indicated that the country needed to enlighten the populace on the disease and what residents should do to prevent its spread.
Symptoms of the influenza, according to health workers include fever, cough or sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, 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.
It is also important to know that the disease spread from one person to another through droplets released during coughing or sneezing as in any flu and also people may become infected by touching surfaces or holding objects contaminated with the influenza viruses.
Examples of items which could carry the virus are hands, door handles, handkerchiefs, tissue paper and then touching one’s own mouth, nose or eyes after touching any such contaminated item.
Infected individuals can prevent the spread of the pandemic influenza A H1N1 to others by allowing sick persons to be at home if not on admission and limit contact with others as much as possible; sick people should cover their mouth with handkerchief or tissue paper when sneezing or coughing; tissue paper used should be properly disposed off and handkerchiefs or the other materials used be washed with soap, dried and replaced as often as required.
It is also important to prevent others from using materials used by a sick person for wiping the nose or mouth.
In other not to spread the virus, one should cover the nose and mouth with a tissue or handkerchief when one coughs or sneezes. Tissue papers should be thrown in a trash can after use and handkerchiefs and other materials must be washed with soap and water.
To be on the safer side, individuals should wash their hands often and thoroughly with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective. One should avoid touching one’s eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
To get early treatment, anyone with any flu-like symptoms, should report to the nearest clinic for treatment and advice. After that, the individual should stay away from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
It is significant to try to avoid close contact with sick people and also sick persons should stay at home for seven days after symptoms begin or until he or she has been cleared of all symptoms for 24 hours or whichever is longer. This, according to health workers, is to keep one from infecting others and spreading the virus.
To be our brother’s keeper, we can advise those who are not well to seek medical assistance, seek information from the nearest clinic or hospital and follow directions from health officials.
A person is expected to have the disease when he or she develops fever with cough and or sore throat. Such an individual, according to health experts, should immediately report to the nearest health facility for diagnose and proper treatment. Who knows, you might have deadly influenza and the over-the-counter medicine you bought for the cold the other time might not work this time round.