Mr Eric Opoku, Brong Ahafo Regional Minister has called for home grown strategies to mobilize the population for action against any outbreak of the Ebola Viral Disease (EVD) in the country.
He said with uncoordinated and conflicting information available to the public, the response to an outbreak should cover leadership, preparedness, social mobilization, case management and infection prevention.
Others are epidemiology and laboratory investigations, as well as coordination, provision of finance and logistics.
Mr Opoku made the call when addressing a Stakeholder meeting to discuss and implement response to EVD and Cholera in the Brong Ahafo Region.
He said this is a critical period to exhibit leadership and should involve politicians, traditional and religious leaders, philanthropists and others, who can help forge the way forward.
?We as a region should be prepared, by having all our communities at high level of awareness about the disease and the action to take. At the present, the region has a response plan which is to be implemented by stakeholders from various sectors.
?The most prominent part of these plans is the setting up of teams to rapidly investigate and respond to or report to higher level any rumours of EVD in the region?.
Mr Opoku pointed out that, in mobilizing the communities, they should be informed to avoid panic reactions, have adequate knowledge of the signs and symptoms, where and when to report suspected cases.
The Brong Ahafo Regional Directorate of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) has designated seven hospitals as holding centres for possible cases of EVD in the region.
These are, Brong Ahafo Regional Hospital at Sunyani, and the hospitals at Sampa, Goaso, Dormaa Ahenkro, Techiman, Yeji and Nsawkaw.
He called for the use of standard protocols in the management of both suspected and confirmed cases at the health facilities, and that, despite the fact that some health workers have been oriented on the disease; there is the need for intense and formal training to be undertaken by experts from the World Health Organization (WHO).
In addition, Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE) have been distributed to the facilities and the health managers have been prepared on how to communicate effectively with the public about the disease.
Dr Kofi Issah, Deputy Director of Public Health (DDPH) at the Brong Ahafo Regional Directorate of Health said among the measures instituted are the activation of disease outbreak plans in all the 27 municipals and districts in the region, orientation of management and staff in all hospitals to assess the preparedness level of border districts and border posts.
He said no case on EVD has been confirmed in Ghana to date, but 17 suspected cases have been reported, four in Ashanti Region, three in Eastern Region, six in Greater Accra Region one in Upper East Region and three in Brong-Ahafo Region.
?All tested negative for Ebola and other Viral Haemorrhagic Fever viruses (Marburg, Dengue, Lassa, West Nile, Yellow fever) by PCR testing done at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR)?.
Dr Issah said the suspected cases in the region were recorded at Bechem, in Tano South District and Berekum in Berekum Municipality and they are being held in holding centres for observation.
He said 270 pieces of protective clothing have been distributed to health workers in the region, as well as the sensitization of the public through jingles and radio discussions, assessment of port health activities, stocking of Intravenous Infusion (IV) fluids and disinfectants for management of cases.
Dr Issah said the collaboration of stakeholders in the region is necessary because it has an international border with La Cote d?Ivoire, which also shares a western border with Liberia and Guinea.
There are highly mobile farming and hunting communities, which come into contact with wild game, cultural rites and rituals on care for the sick and dealing with the dead normally involves close physical contact with the sick or dead.
In addition, the forests of the region serves as habitats for animals, which could possibly transmit the disease, the sale and consumption of game by many communities in the region, as well as the existence of bat colonies in certain communities of the region and lack of adequate information to the general public on the EVD.
Dr Issah said during an outbreak, those at higher risk of infection are, health workers, family members or others in close contact with infected people, mourners who have direct contact with the bodies of the deceased, as part of burial ceremonies, and hunters in the rain forest, who come into contact with dead animals found in the forest.
On mode of infection, he said these are, persons to persons, live or dead animals to persons, contact with blood, saliva, sweat, semen, skin or vaginal secretions, needles and respiratory, not yet demonstrated in humans, but possible in animals in the laboratory.
Dr Issah said tips for successful response to EVD are to avoid fear, panic and denial, which hinder effective response, provide good and timely information and be transparent in providing information on all operations.
Others are to focus at the most affected areas and especially recent ones, be flexible and adjust strategy as things may change (risk factors, new behavioral risks) in the course of the outbreak, timely investigation of rumours and suspected cases, special attention to traditional healers, traditional practices, vendors of bush meat, cleaners, drivers of ambulances, quality of PPEs, removal of PPEs, and community participation, which is key for success.
On Cholera, Dr Issah said Atebubu and Pru Districts reported cases in 2011 and 2012, and that, the issue is with the increasing problems of sanitation in the urban areas of the region and the development of slums, also the centralized location of the region means movement of people, including the sick from north to south and vice versa, as well as the region?s location, which is in the transition zone of Ghana (climatic and vegetational).
He said the commercial town of Techiman and the central location of Kintampo and Yeji, with accompanying lorry parks and markets, with poor hygiene, serve as an ?exchange centre? for diseases.
Dr Issah said the five cases recorded in Nkoranza South Municipality recently were people residing in Accra, and that, when their stools were taken it tested positive of cholera.