The outbreak of a variant of meningitis in parts of the country is causing public health concern among the people.
The people in communities where there have been reported cases are particularly alarmed because the disease over the last three weeks or so has claimed 32 lives.
From Friday to yesterday the latest variant of meningitis, pneumococcal meningitis, has snuffed the lives of four persons. Before then, 28 lives, mainly in the Brong Ahafo and Ashanti regions, were lost.
The Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Victor Asare Bampoe, in an interview with the Daily Graphic yesterday, said the deaths increased after the review of some cases which were reported to some health facilities in the Brong Ahafo, Ashanti and Northern regions.
The disease which, he said occurred sporadically, had so far left in its trail more than 140 cases in the affected areas.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Ghana Health Service (GHS) will today give an update on the attack in the affected regions.
Outbreak in Ghana
In Ghana, the worse outbreak of meningitis, Cerebro Spinal Meningitis (CSM), occurred in 1994 and 1996. It affected 17,000 people, leaving 1,000 people dead.
The infectious disease presents with fever, persistent headache, stiff neck and altered conciousness and it is noticeable in the three regions in the north, the upper part of the Brong Ahafo Region and some parts of the Ashanti Region.
Dr Bampoe explained that the present strain of the disease “is not the normal one which the country is used to, but it is being caused by a bacteria known as streptococcal pneumonia”.
The new strain, he said, had come about because a few years ago, the Ministry of Health(MoH), together with the Ghana Health Service (GHS), undertook a massive vaccination of people against the disease, and that had led to the suppression of CSM in the affected areas.
Fortunately, the new strain, although more deadly, does not spread as fast as the CSM.
He was, therefore, confident that the MoH, together with the GHS, would be able to bring the disease under control.
What is meningitis?
Meningitis is a serious and potentially fatal disease caused by bacteria. It kills one out of 10 patients, even if they receive effective antibiotics.
It is an inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord and normally occurs during the dry season.
Meningitis mostly attacks infants, children, and young adults and up to 500 million people are said to be at risk from this infection that can cause severe brain damage.
Also at risk are older adults and people who have long-term health problems such as a weakened immune system.
From Mankranso in the Ashanti Region, Felix A. Baidoo reports that three people have died from the pneumococcal meningitis within the last 10 days.
Already eight people have been diagnosed with the deadly disease in the region, which has put the Regional Health Directorate on alert.
Out of the eight cases, two were reported at Konongo, which resulted in one death; four at Offinso, with two deaths, and two in the Ahafo Ano South District who are recovering.
Confirming this to the Daily Graphic, the Deputy Director of Health, Dr Ewusie Yeboah, assured the people in the region that medical supplies had been dispatched for the treatment of the disease, while public education had been intensified.
From Tamale in the Northern Region, Samuel Duodu reports that the GHS has stepped up public education and mass vaccination to prevent any outbreak of the disease
In the same region, the GHS is also undertaking a mass vaccination and public education against yellow fever, which has also killed three persons in the West Gonja District.
The Northern Regional Director of the GHS, Dr Jacob Mahama, who disclosed this in an interview, said the service had begun a mass vaccination and also intensified public education.
He said the disease control and surveillance unit of the GHS and health workers were also on high alert to contain any outbreak of pneumococcal meningitis in the region.
Pneumococcal meningitis is transmitted from person to person. The bacteria is spread through tiny droplets from an infected person’s mouth, throat, or nose. For example, if someone with the infection coughs or sneezes on or near you, you may contract the disease.