Up to 20 per cent of patients who survive the Cerebrospinal Meningitis (CSM) disease, face learning difficulties, Dr. Joseph Somuah Akuamoah, the Executive Member of Good Life Ghana, has revealed.
He said because the disease was common in children under five years old and teenagers, majority of whom were students, there was the need for early detection and effective treatment to avert this post-survival effect.
Dr. Akuamoah, who is also the Medical Director of the St. Joes Specialist Hospital, at Kasoa, told the Ghana News Agency, in an interview, as part of an awareness creation programme on the disease by Good Life Ghana, a health-focused Non-Governmental Organization.
CSM is the infection of the meninges, the membrane that envelopes the brain and the spinal cord. It is associated with painful inflammation of these membranes.
According to Dr. Akuamoah, the disease is caused either by bacteria or a virus and to a lower extent, by physical injury to the brain, certain drugs, or even cancer infections.
He said though the disease was common in both teenagers and children under five years old, it also affected people of all ages, but it was most fatal in children under age one.
Symptoms, he noted, included sensitivity to light, fear of loud sound, confusion, headaches, vomiting, high fever and stiffness of the neck.
He explained that between five and 10 per cent of patients who survive the disease still die from these symptoms.
Dr. Akuamoah stated that high cases of meningitis were usually reported in the Northern part of Ghana during the Harmattan season when there was low humidity, dusty storms and high temperatures in the day, and very cold temperatures in the night.
He said these weather conditions depressed the human immune system and favoured the growth and survival of the bacteria.
Climate change, he noted, was enhancing the severity of these weather conditions in the meningitis belt.
Dr. Akuamoah said the Northern regions had been the focal point for this infectious disease over the years, thus necessary steps must be taken to ensure the security of residents.
He said during the dry period in 1906 in that area, there was an outbreak, which recorded 20,000 deaths and from thence, it had been estimated that meningitis hit the country at regular intervals of eight to 12 years.
He said in 2012, more than 180 cases were recorded leading to the death of 20 people, adding that, effective vaccination programmes must be embarked on in the three Northern regions.
Dr. Akuamoah said bacterial infection was the most deadly and must be treated as a medical emergency, explaining that, because the bacteria inhabit the throat, kissing an infected person could spread the disease, while the nasal droplets of infected people in crowded environments could also spread it.
He also discouraged overcrowding in churches, dormitories and other public functions and advised people who lived in poorly ventilated houses to as a matter of urgency, open widely their windows and doors to allow adequate ventilation.
He advised: "Behavioural changes must be adopted. People must learn to cover their nose when sneezing and their mouths when coughing. It is important not to get infected in the first place".
The Executive Director of Goodlife Ghana, Mr. Samuel Kojo Appah, said the organisation decided to create awareness on the disease because quite a number of people knew little or nothing about the disease though they were at risk.
He emphasised the need for vaccination, early detection and effective treatment to reduce the severity of the disease to the barest minimum, especially in the North.