Thirty-six persons dying from a deadly and infectious disease, pneumococcal meningitis, should not be played down.
In the Health Minister’s estimation following the outbreak and subsequent media treatment of the subject, there is no cause for alarm.
There would be no cause for alarm only when the statistics is witnessing a downward trend; but that is not the situation the country is in now.
Inasmuch as his downplaying the seriousness of the outbreak is to avoid fear and panic among the population, we can pardon not so, however, if he seeks to underestimate the extent of the epidemic.
Although a cholera outbreak last year startled the country, the pneumococcal meningitis appears to be more dangerous than the former, the reason being straightforward and not far-fetched: Cholera has occasionally visited the country claiming lives but with almost all Ghanaians knowing little about the causes of the deadly food-borne disease and how to prevent it; little or nothing is known about the current outbreak.
Until the Health Ministry and the Ghana Health Service joint press conference yesterday, many had not even heard about the outbreak and the casualty figures.
A Member of Parliament, Yileh Chireh, has called for a more pragmatic response to the outbreak, specifically calling for the setting up of a taskforce and the invitation of a World Health Organisation (WHO) intervention.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the outbreak has reached an epidemic level. It is not falling but rising among persons who hardly understand what they are confronted with, let alone how to respond to it.
We are pleased to learn that the Health Ministry and the GHS have responded to the epidemic and also taken delivery of diagnostic kits from the WHO.
It is our prayer that personnel on the ground would do their best to put all the necessary facilities at their disposal to good use and with the ultimate goal of stopping the disease from claiming more lives.
Now that the Health Ministry is talking, we think this is better than the earlier efforts at painting a picture of no cause for alarm when the reality is the contrary.
For now the medical response would be the fire brigade approach of preventing it from going beyond their current areas of localisation while simultaneously managing the victims.
Educating vulnerable people and others in areas which are likely not to be infected would be an ideal thing to do.
Such education should go beyond the public address system-fitted cars blaring their messages in the neighbourhoods. While we do not seek to underestimate the importance of this, we are of the opinion that the involvement of the clergy of both Christianity and Islam and the massive use of mass communication would be an ideal response, given the zero or so knowledge about pneumococcal meningitis.