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01 August 2014

Ghana: Press Briefing By the Chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Team, Hon Dr Kwaku Agyemang Mensah, for the Management of Ebola Viral Disease, 31 July 2014.

Press release
The Ministry of Health (Ghana) continues to monitor the progression of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. As of 23rd July, WHO states there have been a total of over 1,200 (1,201) cases of which more than half (56%) have died. More people get infected daily and some more die each day. On the average, in the past week, 50 new cases were diagnosed each day. This means the epidemic is far from slowing down and we must as a nation do all we can to keep it at bay.
Not only have Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone recorded EVD cases but also Nigeria has confirmed a case of Ebola in a traveller from Liberia who unfortunately passed on. Many of us are aware of the recent Ebola scare in our country which have helped strengthen our preparedness and response to possible EVD in Ghana.

There are a lot of lessons we need to learn quickly.

1. How is EVD transmitted?
Ebola virus disease is commonly spread from one person to another through
- Close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected or dead animals.
- Direct physical contact with body fluids of infected persons like blood, saliva, stool, vomitus, urine, and soiled linen.
- Burial ceremonies where mourners have direct contact with the body of the deceased person can play a role in the transmission of Ebola.

2. What is our role as citizens in this EVD outbreak?
We have to be each other's keeper and be vigilant. We must report suspicious cases early to the health centres and hospitals for quick action to be taken. Any person showing signs of fever, headache, body aches, intense weakness with or without bleeding from the nose and other body openings as well as Individuals with a travel history to Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria or Sierra Leone with the above mentioned symptoms must report immediately to the nearest health centre for care.
In addition to the above, let us bear in mind that simple hygienic measures such as washing with soap and water is a useful preventive measure which will also reduce the threat of the perennial outbreak of Cholera with the rainy season which we are currently experiencing.

The Response

We wish to assure you that Government is following with keen interest the progression of Ebola virus disease in our sub-region. We will not renege on our efforts to protect the people of Ghana especially our health workers who are at the forefront of this battle against Ebola Virus disease.
We are implementing our preparedness and response plan which has the following major components:
- Risk communication-social mobilization and health education which is a major tool in public health.
- Epidemiological and laboratory surveillance (in humans and animals)
- Case management
- Logistics, security and financial resources and
- Coordination (Hence the Inter-Ministerial Team comprising of the Ministries of Health, Communications, Defence, the Interior and Local Government and Rural Development).

Ladies and Gentlemen, in implementing the above mentioned plan, the following activities have been carried out among others;
 Ongoing public education; posters and brochures have been developed, printed and distributed. This effort is being scaled up presently.
 Media interaction aimed at educating the general public on EVD
 collaboration with all relevant stakeholders including the media and the citizenry
 Frontline staff at health facilities and Points of Entry have been sensitised to identify any suspected case(s)

 The disease surveillance system in the country has been placed on high alert through:
a. Intensification of Viral Haemorrhagic Fever surveillance
b. The field officers are on the alert to pick package and transport specimens to the lab for confirmation
c. Port Health Officers have been given orientation in detection of cases at Points of Entry
d. We have activated a system for screening all passengers, especially those from countries that have recorded cases

 Procuring and pre-positioning Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs); we are awaiting the supplies of more PPEs

 All health facilities have been directed to identify holding rooms or isolation facilities  Efforts are underway to establish Ebola Treatment Centres in Accra, Kumasi and Tamale to cater for the Southern, Middle and the Northern zones of the country
It is worth bearing in mind that preparedness is not an event but a process. Government will continue to work towards the best case scenario, which is prevention of the Ebola Virus Disease. In doing so let us be mindful of the early symptoms of the disease - fever, headaches, intense bodily weakness.

Going forward:

We entreat all institutions to minimize mass gatherings that would necessitate the convergence of individuals from different places in the sub-region as we remain in this high alert phase. Any mass gathering, particularly if it involves people from affected communities moving across borders to attend such conferences in the country poses a serious security threat.
Ladies and gentlemen of the media, the situation calls for your full support especially in the area of public education and we hope you will once again give the necessary assistance to raise the required awareness and get people to practice the highest level of prevention and control measures.

Before I end, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I wish to take the opportunity to thank all those that have contributed and supported the battle against Ebola Virus Disease till now. Just to mention a few:
1. The Government of Ghana
2. Ministry of Health and Ghana Health Service at all levels
3. The National Technical Coordinating Committee
4. Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research
5. The World Health Organization
6. The Media and ... ..
7. Ghana Telecom Chamber
8. All others

We will continue to count on all of you and others to continue with the battle till we win.
Thank you for your attention.




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