The fast spreading pneumococcal meningitis which has so far killed 85 people has now covered almost all parts of the country, with cases reported in all the regions except the Central Region.
Even though the Ministry of Health (MoH) says the rate of infection has not reached an epidemic level, members of parliament are worried that the ministry in the first place did not take precautionary measures to mitigate the spread of the disease.
Minister of Health Alex Segbefia yesterday briefed parliament on the current situation of the disease and how the ministry is fighting to stop the spread and also to treat all infected people.
So far, Brong Ahafo and the Northern regions are the most affected regions, with 17 districts in each of the regions recording cases, while the Eastern Region is the least affected, with only Denkyembour District with capital at Akwatia recording two fatal cases.
The worst affected districts are Tain, Wenchi, Techiman Municipal and the Nkoranza South, all in the Brong Ahafo Region.
Tain recorded 65 cases with 12 deaths, Wenchi also having 62 with 12 deaths, Techiman Municipal recording 37 cases with eight deaths and Nkoranza South also recording 35 cases with three deaths.
The minister told the MPs in his report that his ministry was concerned because the outbreaks started in areas that were not commonly affected, adding that “the causative agent known as pneumococcus is behaving quite differently than what is normally known to be the case.”
“Even though there have been previous reports of indicating outbreaks from pneumococcus, they are rare occurrences and require much more in-depth laboratory studies on the type or strain that we are dealing with which have been started and are ongoing,” he said, stressing that the ministry has provided funding support, antibiotics (ceftriaxone), laboratory test kits and logistics to the affected regions and districts.
He said in addition, “We are using varied social mobilisation strategies, including the radio stations, gong-gong beating, traditional and religious leaders and information centres (public address systems) to mobilise the affected communities for positive response.”
Mr Segbefia mentioned that surveillance on meningitis, especially in the current dry season, had been enhanced and health workers were being sensitised on the outbreak.
“The harmattan season, this year is very harsh and hence we need to sustain the alert, continue to stay vigilant and further enhance our preparedness and response,” the minister said.
New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Offinso North, Collins Ntim, who is a key member of the Health Committee of Parliament, expressed great worry about the way the government has been dragging its feet in responding to such emergency situations, saying, “Always unless many lives are lost in such major outbreaks before government shows seriousness.”
According to him, government must provide more funds for the ministry’s services because in this year’s budget, the government cut down significantly funds that were supposed to improve health service delivery.
NPP MP for Dormaa East, William Kwasi Sabi, on his part said public health education of the Ministry of Health has always been a post-mortem, stressing that the ministry only gathers resources to do public education when an outbreak occurs, as in the case of the cholera in the country last year.
By Thomas Fosu Jnr