Despite the words of Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Victor Bampoe earlier this week when he said, “… It is nothing to worry about because the district health teams, the regional health management teams and the district assemblies are very much in control”, the case count and death toll from the pneumococcal meningitis outbreak continues to grow.
Over 110 cases of the disease have been reported in seven districts of the Brong Ahafo and Northern Regions since October, last year, Bampoe confirmed to the media in Accra. The death toll is now at 28.
He added that health officials have intensified public education in the affected areas to control the situation and stop the further spread of the disease.
Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, or pneumococcus, can cause many types of illnesses. Some of these illnesses can be life-threatening. Besides pneumonia, pneumococcus can cause other types of infections too, such as: Ear infections, Sinus infections, Meningitis (infection of the covering around the brain and spinal cord) and Bacteremia (blood stream infection), according to the CDC.
Some of these infections are considered “invasive.” Invasive disease means that germs invade parts of the body that are normally free from germs. For example, pneumococcal bacteria can invade the bloodstream, causing bacteremia, and the tissues and fluids surrounding the brain and spinal cord, causing meningitis. When this happens, disease is usually very severe, requiring treatment in a hospital and even causing death in some cases.
Pneumococcal bacteria spread from person-to-person by direct contact with respiratory secretions, like saliva or mucus. Many people, especially children, have the bacteria in their nose or throat at one time or another without being ill. This is called “carriage.” Doctors do not know why carriage only rarely leads to sickness.
Authorities advised affected individuals to report early to a health facility upon noticing any symptoms like fever, headaches, body aches, neck stiffness and loss of appetite because it can improve treatment outcome and chances for survival.