Monday, May 2, 2016

Single cholera case, no death this year, GHS confirms

By Edmund Smith-Asante
The situation when cholera struck the country in 2014

The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has confirmed that as of April 19, 2016, only one incident of cholera outbreak had been recorded in the country, with no deaths.

It has, however, warned that the country is not out of the throes of more outbreaks, since conditions still exist to make that happen.

Briefing the WASH in Emergencies (WinE) Technical Working Group (WTWG) on the current cholera situation at its maiden meeting held last Tuesday, Mr James Addo, Data Manager, Surveillance Department, GHS, warned; “The possibility of reoccurrence is high as risk factors (contaminated street-vended sachet water and food from poor environmental sanitation) are still pending.”

The meeting was held to learn the key lessons from the cholera outbreaks of 2014 and 2015 as contained in findings of a study conducted by two consultants contracted by the government, Messrs Yoan Gravel and Stephen Ntow.

It was also to discuss a review of Ghana’s water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan (EPRP), receive briefing on a national emergency simulation exercise conducted last week and on Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to manage cholera.

The only cholera case
In a power point presentation done on behalf of the National Coordinator Cholera Prevention and Control, Dr Emmanuel K. Dzotsi, Mr Addo said the first and only cholera case confirmed this year involved a 24-year-old male student who resides at Achimota in Accra, who was suspected to have contracted the disease after he had consumed sachet water and foods sold on the street.

He said when the history of the victim was traced, it was found that he ate waakye (locally boiled rice and beans) with macaroni and salad at a restaurant in Lapaz, a suburb of the Accra, in the afternoon of April 5, 2016 prior to the onset of diarrhoea on April 6, 2016 at approximately 6 a.m.

Mr Addo, however, expressed worry that when the victim reported at the 37 Military Hospital on April 7, 2016, no Cholera Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) was done as the health staff did not have test kits and were not aware of such a test.

The patient was also treated at the emergency ward in the midst of other patients, since initially cholera was not suspected by the clinicians. It was only after a records review that the disease was suspected and stool samples were taken to the lab for further investigations, he said.  

The meeting, however, found that medical staff at the hospital had since been trained by a team from the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.

Steps taken
Mr Addo said since the outbreak, measures that had been taken to curtail the spread of cholera had included the tracing and identification of seven immediate cholera contacts as of April 16, 2016, while public health nurses (PHNs) and community health nurses (CHNs) had been assigned to follow up the cases daily for five days, which is the maximum incubation period for cholera, to assess whether they had diarrhoea.

Also, the toilets, bathrooms, clothes and linens of the victim had been disinfected with chlorine solution, while the household members had been educated on the prevention of cholera and a cholera kit had also been donated to the household, including a bar of key soap, aqua tabs, ORS sachets and chlorine solution by a Red Cross team.

Mass education has been conducted as well for community members on the prevention of cholera using a public address system and public toilets, refuse dumps and gutters have been disinfected with chlorine solution.

Contingency measures
The Focal Person on WASH at the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), Mrs Ruth Arthur, told the Daily Graphic that NADMO was in a state of preparedness and constantly organises community-based education through open air drama at durbars. NADMO also had in stock water tankers to complement Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) tankers in case there was an outbreak.

A Programme Officer at the Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate (EHSD), Mr Kweku Quansah, said no major outbreaks of cholera had been recorded this year because the country was more prepared than before.

He also said the weather had so far been very favourable against any outbreak, while development partners were now more willing to help deal with any outbreak. Mr Quansah also commended the response team for their swiftness in dealing with the single outbreak experienced and added that it was the way to go to nip the disease in the bud.

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This story was first published by the Daily Graphic on May 2, 2016

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