GHS mounts awareness campaigns on Mass Drug Administration for Onchocerciasis

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Health Onchocerciasis
Health Onchocerciasis

The Ghana Health Service (GHS), has mounted awareness campaigns through its social mobilisation activities in Onchocerciasis, endemic regions, to sensitise individuals about the need to participate in the upcoming Mass Drug Administration (MDA) programme.

It said the 14-day MDA programme, which would begin from August 23, to September 3, 2021, had been earmarked for the treatment of individual residents in all the endemic areas of the country.

Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), at a news briefing in Accra on Friday, onchocerciasis was an infection caused by a parasitic worm called Onchocerca volvulus, and spreads by the bite of an infected blackfly known scientifically as Simulium.

He said the MDA on onchocerciasis was done twice every year per the programme, to reduce the parasitic burden of the disease.

This year, out of the existing 137 endemic areas of the country 66 districts in 13 regions, had been selected to participate in this round because of their record of high prevalence the disease, and mentioned the regions involved in the first round of the MDA as Ahafo, Ashanti, Bono, Bono East, Eastern, North East, northern, Oti, Savannah, Upper East and West, Western and Western North.

Dr Kuma-Aboagye said during the period trained health care workers and Community Drug Distributors (CDDs) would visit every household, register and give out Mectizan and Ivermectin tablets to eligible individuals.

He urged all persons irrespective of their social status, gender, and religion, who were above five years in the endemic areas to actively participate in this MDA by swallowing the NTD medicines that would be distributed by the officials to help improve coverage, and to get rid of the disease in Ghana.

He said in addition, their roles, CDD were expected to mobilise communities for the successful delivery of NTD medicines to the public, saying “the value of these medicines and the cost of implementation of the MDA is immense and run into several millions of dollars”.

The Director-General explained that Ghana had been endemic for onchocerciasis since the early 1960s, and the MDA as recommended by the WHO, had been a key strategy for the interruption of transmission.

Through the generous donation of Mectizan Donation Programme (MDP) and several pharmaceutical companies, Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) medicines had been distributed in affected communities at no cost, he said.

He said by treating the entire communities with safe and effective medicines, additional infections could be prevented from healthy individuals, adding that regular treatment of communities over several years was a critical intervention in controlling and eliminating the disease until such a time that infection was no longer a public health threat in the community and treatment could safely be stopped.

Dr Kuma-Aboagye appealed to the media to help in disseminating relevant information on the MDA to the population to improve NTD medicine uptake and community participation, stressing that the medicines had been proven safe for use, and had been used for these treatments over the years in Ghana and elsewhere with none of very few discomfort.

“Besides all health facilities in the endemic zones had been put on the alert to manage any adverse drug event free of charge should any case be recorded? We expect all eligible to partake in this exercise. Refusals may form reservoirs for continuous transmission,” he added.

Dr Kuma-Aboagye stressed that MDA, would be implemented with the strict observance of COVID-19 protocols in full force by all health workers and CDDs, warning that durbars and community meetings were strictly discouraged and should not be promoted whatsoever,” but community information centres, mobile van announcements, gong-gong beating among others were encouraged.

Dr Kofi Asemanyi-Mensah, the Programme Manager of NTDs, said cumulative data showed that about 1,300 persons had been blinded by the onchocerciasis, which was a debilitating disease and affected the poorest and most marginalized.

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