Swine Flu Scare – Lincoln School Confined
The latest outbreak of the H1N1 influenza in the country, which has brought the total number of cases to 43, has led to the confinement of 16 students of the Lincoln Community School in Accra as they undergo treatment, following the closure of their school.
As the students who tested positive to the swine flu remained confined to their homes, the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) also launched a national awareness and sensitisation programme on the flu with a call for more attention on schools.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday, the Director of Public Health of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Joseph Amankwah, said to prevent further spread of the disease, all persons identified to have had contact with the affected children, as well as their household members, were also being treated.
As a further measure to contain the situation, Dr Amankwah said a doctor had been stationed at the school compound to take samples from persons who might come back with symptoms of the influenza as they stayed at home.
He said seven children who were coughing reported back to the doctor yesterday to be tested. The school, with about 700 pupils and situated at Abelenkpe, a residential area in Accra, was closed by the GHS because 18 of the pupils tested positive for the H1N1 influenza.
Dr Amankwah explained that as a preventive measure, health personnel who treated infected persons and all other persons who had contact with infected persons were given preventive treatment without waiting for them to show signs of the disease.
He said the preventive treatment took five days of medication, instead of the 10 days stipulated for treating a sick person.
A sudden rise in the number of H1N1 influenza cases in the country has forced the GHS to order the closure of the school.
With the first recorded case in Ghana in August 2009, the figure has shot up to 43 by yesterday, with 18 of them being pupils of Lincoln.
Apart from the first two patients who were admitted at the Aviation Hospital in August, all others were confined and treated in their homes.
In an interview in Accra yesterday, the Director-General of the GHS, Dr Elias K. Sory, said the school had to be closed to prevent large-scale transmission among the children who belonged to the high-risk group as far as the influenza was concerned.
Explaining how the disease was detected in the school, Dr Sory said its authorities reported to health workers when they realised that many of the children were suffering from cold-like illnesses and when a series of tests were conducted among them, the virus was detected.
He explained that the school had to be closed down because the number detected at that point in time was on the high side, which called for that action to prevent any dangerous situation.
He said since there was the likelihood that other pupils in the school might have had contact with the 18 patients, each of them, together with the members of staff, had been offered some form of treatment as a preventive measure.
Dr Sory said with the change in weather, it was likely that many people might be infected with the virus and mistakenly take it to be ordinary cold.
He, therefore, advised that persons with symptoms of ordinary cold should immediately report to a health facility for early diagnosis and treatment.
Unlike elsewhere, so far no deaths have been recorded in Ghana since the disease broke out globally in April this year.
Dr Sory observed that what made the issue of the pandemic disturbing was the fact that it was new and different from all existing influenza pandemics, a situation which made its behaviour difficult to predict.
The director general took the opportunity to advise the public to be on the look out for and report all diseases which presented symptoms of the influenza.
The 2009 flu pandemic or swine flu is a global outbreak of a new strain of influenza A virus sub-type H1N1 that was first identified in April 2009.
The outbreak was first observed in Mexico, with evidence that there had been an ongoing epidemic for months before it was officially recognised as such.
The Mexican government closed most of Mexico City’s public and private facilities in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus.
However, the virus continued to spread globally, while clinics were overwhelmed by people inflicted.
Currently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has stopped counting all cases and focused on tracking major outbreaks.
On June 11, 2009, the WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic.
It indicated that while only mild symptoms were experienced by the majority of people, some had more severe symptoms which could be fatal.
Mild symptoms, according to the WHO, might include fever, sore throat, cough, headache, muscle or joint pain, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea.
Those at risk of a more severe infection include asthmatics, diabetics, those suffering from obesity, heart disease, the immuno-compromised, children with neuro-developmental conditions and pregnant women.
Similar to other influenza viruses, pandemic H1N1 is typically contracted by person-to-person transmission through respiratory droplets.
To avoid spreading the infection, health workers recommend that those with symptoms should stay home, away from school, work and crowded places. Those with more severe symptoms or those in an at-risk-group may benefit from antivirals.
Meanwhile, at the launch of the NADMO educational programme, its Co-ordinator, Mr Kofi Portuphy, said the move had been necessary due to the sudden surge of the pandemic among schoolchildren in the country.
He said there was the need to intensify the campaign on awareness of the pandemic to educate people on preventive measures, as prevention of disasters was its mission.
The signs of swine flu may include fever, cough, running nose, body ache and chills. Others may include tiredness, diarrhoea, vomiting and headache. Complications of the disease may include pneumonia and difficulty in breathing.