Friday, August 07, 2009

The Arrival of the Inevitable: H1N1 Flu in Ghana

Source: Daily Graphic Newspaper 7 August 2009

It was inevitable. Like a long-anticipated visitor, Influenza A (a.k.a. H1N1 flu or also popularly referred to as “Swine-flu”) has come to town. It was only yesterday that a post by fellow Ghana blogger Maya alerted my attention to the fact that H1N1 flu was in our midst.

It has probably been around Ghana much longer than we think but our surveillance systems may not have picked it up earlier. Let's face it, we live in a dynamic world where people are always on the move. Besides, once Cote D'Ivoire was hit a month ago, it was only a matter of time.

We are no strangers to influenza pandemics. The Spanish Flu pandemic that started in 1918 killing between 50-100 million people world-wide, also reeked havoc in Accra apparently. Very recently, we had the avian influenza outbreak in Ghana but that eventually came under control. However, unlike avian/bird flu, H1N1 actually spreads by human-to-human contact so is alot more difficult to control.

I came down with a really bad cold last week and was just waiting for the H1N1-esque symptoms. After a weekend of hot soup and watching expletive-filled Deadwood Season 1-2, the cold cleared and I was relieved. Okay, that was probably more of an example of my legendary paranoia but one cannot be too careful.

The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have some pretty comprehensive web-pages on H1N1 flu which I would recommend for all to review. Some of the CDC recommendations to protect your health revolve around basic hygiene:

* Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

* Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners* are also effective.

* Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

* Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

* If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) Keep away from others as much as possible to keep from making

They have a lot more to say so do check 'em out. We should all bear in mind that the H1N1 flu cases seen in the current pandemic have been mild for many and severe or even fatal for only relative few. I must admit that I’m pretty freaked out about infectious contagious diseases spreading in our neck of the woods since our health systems are already fragile and ill-equipped. We also have so many more opportunities to come in direct contact with large numbers of people for example in our crowded markets or even in Churches. I don't think I have to add that some of our hygiene practices in Ghana can also be classified under the banner of "borderline shady" at times due to the lack of clean water . So you can understand why I'm a little concerned. In the meantime, I’m off to look for some hand santizers for the family!
SOURCE: WHO. The Map shows the areas in the world affected by H1N1 flu as of 31 August 2009 (shaded in pink). Ghana was yet to be officially hit and just to think it was only last week!


Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

Thanks Abena. Heard it yday and have been scared myself. Thanks for the tips but was looking out for the symptoms. Guess I have to search for it elsewhere.

Abena said...

Hey Nana F-A, I thought about listing the symptoms but felt that I did not want to contribute to panic-making since they are very similar to the common cold! They are on the CDC page though...

Edward: said...

Now the ministry of health wants us to report any strange flu related disease to the hospital...soup aint gonna work no more..!!

Abena said...

Hehhehe!! Indeed you are right Edward. I also forsee a flood of suspected symptoms at all health centres in Ghana.

Maya Mame said...

Completely agree about the borderline shady hygiene habits! My experience of the H1N1 virus in Gothenburg is that most people have recovered fully before even receiving the diagnosis. Let's hope it'll be the same in Ghana, but just in case, I'll also be stocking up on hand sanitizer.

Abena said...

Hey Maya Mame, It is nice to hear that it is true what the experts are saying that most people recover fully! That will help keep some of the H1N1 hysteria down. I think most Ghanaians have moved on to other things by now ie politics, politics, politics!