Ebola scare: Health authorities order closure of caves in Brong Ahafo

Health authorities have ordered traditional and local leaders in the Bono Ahafo Region to close caves in the Buoyem area to tourists in the wake of the Ebola scare.

It follows studies which show a colony of bats in the caves, has records of antibodies of the dreaded Ebola virus though they have no stimulating agents known as antigen.

Head of Disease Surveillance at the Ghana Health Service, Dr. Badu Sarkodie, explains the effect is that the bats, at a point in their lives, suffered Ebola infection.

Transmission of Ebola which has about 90 per cent fatality rate, can be through wild animals-human or human-to-human.

The African fruit bat is considered the natural host and also a potential transmitter of the Ebola virus.

The presence of bats at places such as the Kumasi Zoo and 37 Military Hospital in Accra, has heightened fear of Ghanaians as the country mounts surveillance against the virus.

Speaking at the 36th Annual Meeting of the Society of Professional Medical and Dental Practitioners over the weekend at Koforidua in the Eastern Region, Dr. Badu Sarkodie reveals unlike bats in the Buoyem Caves, those at 37 Hospital and Kumasi Zoo for instance have no Ebola anti-bodies.

“Buoyem area, the bats there live in caves …Studies have shown that they have the antibodies of the Ebola virus; meaning that at a point in time in their lives, they might have been infected,” Dr Badu Sarkodie revealed.

According to him, though there is no record of active transmission even in the Buoyem Cave bats, community leaders have been advised to close them to the public.

“No antigen yet. So we can say that there’s no active infection or active transmission but then up to about 1 or 2 per cent have at a point in time in their lives, they were infected. Those in Accra [37 military hospital] and Kumasi [Zoo] have also been assessed and the antibodies of the virus are not in them, ” Dr Badu Sarkodie explained.

Bat meat is a delicacy for many homes in Ghana, and studies show high consumption across the country, a situation which worries health officials.

Dr. Badu Sarkodie hints, the Ghana Health Service could be forced to take a decision on bat consumption when the need arises.

“Using the bat as bush meat and delicacy is quiet common and here, should there be infection in the bats, Ghana would be in big crisis because people like it as much as 120,000 sales per year in a small area within the country.

“The patronage of bat for bush meat is quiet high and for now; we haven’t reached there yet. At a point in time if it becomes necessary, we will advise the authorities to take the necessary decision on this,” he added.

Meanwhile, President of Society of Private Medical and Dental Practitioners, Dr. Kwasi Odoi-Agyarko, wants the Ghana Health Service to involve private health facilities in the management of Ebola cases in Ghana.

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