Over hundred (100) people drawn from various civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations, religious organizations and the media, converge in Accra on Friday 29th August to share ideas and information on the deadly Ebola virus.
The information session as organized by the West African Civil Society Institute (WASCI), according to the institute’s Executive Director, Nana Asantewa Afidzanu, was to bring “everyone” on board to discuss the issues of Ebola in West Africa, especially prevention of an unlikely outbreak in Ghana and the country’s preparedness to tackle cases, studying cases of countries which been affected by the disease, and general education on the virus.
There were resource persons including: Dr. Franklin Asiedu Bekoe from the Ghana Health Service; Mr. Francis Palmdeti from the Ghana Immigration Service, and Mr. Kobby Blay, CEO of Ghana Health Nest.
There was also a video conferencing in which Mr. Aaron Weah-Weah, Programmes Director of NAYMOTE in Liberia, talked about the Liberian Case of the Ebola outbreak.
Current outbreak difficult to tackle
Speaking to the audience, Dr. Franklin Bekoe said the 2014 Ebola outbreak severity was more than expected, and therefore going to be difficult to tackle. He linked the unprecedented spate of the spreading to the global enlargement and movement.
“The 2014 Ebola outbreak is severe than expected since the first outbreak in 1976. This massive outbreak would be difficult to address because the world is not a bigger place and people are moving from one place to the other all the time”.
“Ebola is not trying to bring segregation into the world, but to keep us conscious,” He admonished.
According to the doctor, the outbreak has spread faster between the first three countries – Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia – because they have weak health systems. This, he also said, caused the outbreak to spread to other countries on the continent.
Getting &Transmitting Ebola
Dr. Bekoe taught that there were two (2) ways of getting the Ebola Virus, but many ways of spreading. The two ways of getting Ebola are: animal to man and man to man, with the latter being the moredangerous one. While ways of spreading may include: direct body contact, exchange or coming into contact with affected person’s bodily fluids, sexual activities, washing, kissing and touching dead bodies, etcetera.
He cited the case in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as an example of the animal to man mode of transmission, explaining that the outbreak came about when a man brought a bush meat home to be cooked and consumed by the family.
According to him, the Ebola Virus has a wide incubation period between 2 to 21 days, making suspicion of the virus very low and spread faster and unconsciously.
He reiterated that the virus has not treatment or cure, and he cautioned that “everybody must take responsibility of his or her health” and report to a medical centre when one feels unwell, stressing that “when you report early, you could be saved, and your family would be saved”.
Ebola as STD
Dr. Bekoe, in response to a question as to whether the Ebola virus could be a sexually transmitted disease (STD) answered in the affirmative; explaining that “if the virus can be found in the semen and transmitted through sexual intercourse, then it is a sexual transmitted disease”.
Explaining why the virus cannot be a communicable disease, he said the Ebola virus is heavy and cannot travel a long distance to contaminate the air as other light pathogens do.
The medical doctor stated emphatically that there was no case of Ebola in Ghana, and that the country is on high alert and employing all necessities to prevent the disease from breaking in the country, with mechanisms in place to handle any case in the unlikely event that a case would be recorded in Ghana.
“A World Health Organization (WHO) Grade A laboratory is the body which has diagnosed all the suspected and alleged Ebola cases in Ghana. So if we say the cases are negative, they definitely are,” he stressed.
According to Dr. Bekoe, preparedness is a gradual process, and said that as at the time of speaking, the country has moved further steps in preparedness over the past months.
He noted that a national response plan has been set up, and emergency numbers made available to the public. The numbers are: 0299009958. 0299009972, 0299009949 and MTN Toll Free number: 30040.
Closing of borders
Taking his turn to speak, Mr. Francis Palmdeti, Assitant Controller of Immigration, Head of Public Affairs Unit of the Ghana Immigration Service, stated that closing of Ghana’s borders or major entry points is not the best as has been widely advocated by many Ghanaians.
“Closing the boarders would not solve all the problems; it is about preparedness and cautiousness of the people. What are the effects of closing legitimate borders? People would be forced to use illegitimate paths which you cannot monitor them. What is required is we leave the legitimate borders open, we remain vigilant and do effective screening,” Mr. Palmdeti said.
Agencies and duties
Mr. Palmdeti explained that there are many agencies at the entry and exit points, with each agency assigned to specific duty in the immigration processes. He listed agencies including port health officers; officers from the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI); Customs and Excise Duty officers and Quarantine officers.
He disclosed these agencies have been put at the entry and exit points to ensure that people moving in and out of Ghana are “deserving” people in terms of their health and economic status, their mission and many others; assuring Ghanaians that with the Port Health Workers doing effective screening, there was no way a diseased person was going to be allowed entry into the country.
The Assistant Immigration advised Ghanaians to stay vigilant and to be each other’s keeper by reporting suspected case of Ebola to the nearest health facility.
The Liberian case
Aaron Weah-Weah, Programmes Director, NAYMOTE, Liberia, the massive outbreak in Liberia was due to many challenges. Some are:
i. Inadequate awareness and inappropriate messages dissemination; explaining that despite government’s efforts, there are still some rural communities that are not fully aware of the deadly virus existence.
ii. Inability of the Liberian government to effectively respond to Ebola crisis. He said mechanisms put in place by government, including a hotline and a few Ebola treatment facilities which are not adequate and therefore have not provided the level of responsiveness necessary.
Despite the enormous Ebola challenges facing Liberia, Aaron was hopeful that the spread of the virus could be controlled and finally gotten rid of if the Liberian government and leaders in the five affected countries – Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, DRC and Nigeria come together to declare a full and dedicated war toward ending the spread of the deadly virus.
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