Lassa

From right: Dr Gloria Quansah-Asare, Deputy Director General of GHS, Dr Afisa Zakariah, Chief Director of MoH, Alex Segbefia and Dr Owen Laws Kaluwa, WHO Country Representative

The Ministry of Health (MoH) has issued an alert for Lassa fever, calling on all health facilities in the country to intensify public awareness on the disease.

The ministry has also charged the leadership of the various health facilities in the regions and districts to initiate processes for public awareness creation on the disease and institute systems for enhanced surveillance.

Minister of Health Alex Segbefia together with representatives of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and World Health Organisation (WHO), briefing the media on the outbreak of Lassa fever in West Africa, said it was imperative for Ghana to take the necessary steps and measures to prevent and protect citizens against the deadly viral haemorrhagic disease, Lassa fever.

Countries in the sub-region have already recorded cases of Lassa fever this year, with the disease sweeping westward of Benin that has reported 71 cases (six confirmed, 10 probable and 55 suspected) in seven regions.

Nieghbouring Togo is also recording Lassa fever cases, with more than 80 people reportedly showing signs and symptoms since March 15, 2016.

The Togolese health authorities reported the confirmed outbreak in a district called Oti that shares boundary with Ghana.

“This is very close and Ghana as a country needs to enhance surveillance and public awareness for prevention and early detection of Lassa fever,” the minister mentioned.

Mr Segbefia further requested all health institutions and health workers to institute surveillance on Lassa fever and acute haemorrhagic fevers in general using case definitions and specific isolation conditions for the management of suspected cases of Lassa fever.

He also called on all health workers to adhere to regular infection prevention and control measures to prevent and protect against possible nosocomial transmission.

“Going forward, we entreat all citizens of Ghana to desist from contact with the rodent (multi-mammate rat or mastomys) to prevent Lassa fever,” he added.

The sector minister assured the public that the health ministry together with other health agencies in the country like the WHO would not renege on their efforts to protect citizens, especially health workers.

Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic febrile illness which is endemic in the West African Region. It is transmitted to humans via contact with food or household items contaminated with urine or faeces of the rodent (multi-mammate rat).

Person-to-person infection and laboratory transmission can also occur, particularly in hospital settings that lack adequate infection prevention and control measures.

Ghana recorded its first confirmed cases in 2011 in two districts in the Ashanti and Eastern regions. Since then, no more cases have been detected despite the strong surveillance system for the disease in the country.

By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri

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