NEWS COMMENTARY LOOKS AT THE REPRECURSIONS OF THE OUTBREAK OF SWINE FLU IN PARTS OF THE COUNTRY.
Imagine a situation where your taste buds are denied delicacies which include chicken and pork in the midst of a pandemic which requires you to cover your nose and mouth while you social distance from family and friends. Such circumstances appear to be slowly becoming a reality with the outbreak of swine flu in parts of the country, barely 2 weeks after the Ministry of Food and Agriculture announced the outbreak of bird flu in three regions. Ghana now has two influenzas to deal with; the latest resulted in the Kpone-Katamanso Municipal Veterinary Office temporarily banning the consumption of pork and its related transactions. Swine flu, also known as H1N1 has been detected among students in Akuse Methodist SHS.
Out of 34 samples taken for testing, 13 came back positive. Reports indicate that hundreds of pigs have been slaughtered within the Kpone-Katamanso Municipality due to the outbreak. What is disturbing thing about this development is an image attached to the story published by Ghana News Agency where a man who presumably is a livestock farmer appears to have his hands soaked in blood from a dead pig infected by the swine flu as another man in gloves examines the slaughtered animal. The other man in the image, by virtue of his appearance indicates that he is the Veterinary officer mentioned in the story. It is strange how he looks on as the livestock farmer handles the infected pig with his bare hands with blood stains all over his hands and shirt. This is worrying considering the contagious nature of the flu, whose symptoms and mode of transmission have been well documented. Swine Flu or H1N1 refers to an acute respiratory disease that originated from pigs. It is known to have been caused by one of several swine influenza a strain which is highly contagious
The flu is transmitted like a virus from one person to another in the same way influenza spreads and is typically incubated within one to four days averaging two to three days in the host. Symptoms of the virus include sore in the throat, severe headache with chills, coughs, weakness and general unpleasant feeling similar to the symptoms of influenza. There have been cases where some persons who had swine flu showed severe respiratory illness such as pneumonia or respiratory failure resulting in death. Those that are at higher risk for complications from swine flu are usually those suffering from chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and pregnant women who are pregnant.
Like any outbreak or pandemic, swift response by the health authorities is key in containing its spread. A 2018 research on the outbreak of swine flu in the Asokore Mampong Municipality reiterated the fast pace at which the swine flu infected more than 90 students of the Kumasi Academy High School, leading to the closure of the school. For the timely intervention of the Ministry of Health, the death toll would have been higher. Although early days, the silence of the Ghana Health Service on the outbreak of swine flu in the country is worrying. This is because pork is consumed by many Ghanaians and foreigners alike in the country. You only have to walk into a pub, canteen, restaurant or any eatery especially at night to witness the high level of pork consumption. It is understandable to argue that the Ghana Health Service may have had their hands full dealing with the covid-19 pandemic as well as the outbreak of bird flu.
Anyway! But that is no excuse for ignoring another outbreak equally as deadly as the others. Many Ghanaians have confidence in the Ghana Health Service in terms of having the capacity to deal with any pandemic no matter its severity. That has been demonstrated in how the Service has handled the covid-19 pandemic thus far. It behooves the Ghana Health Service to intensify its surveillance structure to enable it to detect such diseases early enough and contain the spread to avert potential outbreaks. This is the only way to maintain the level of confidence the public has in the Ghana Health Service. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic where Ghanaians are cautious about the chicken they consume with the outbreak of bird flu, another outbreak of swine flu has the potential of throwing the country in disarray. People need to enjoy their favorite pork dishes to calm their nerves from the politically charged atmosphere, filled with frustrated youth who are unemployed. This is an SOS message to the Ghana Health Service.
By Nathaniel Nartey A Journalist