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COVID_19 versus CSM

Are we so much afraid to die from COVID19 that we forget we had other health diseases and matters we were battling with before the Corona virus? Sadly this appears to be the case and over 40 people have already died from CSM in Ghana! As we fight against COVID 19, let us not forget to keep watching out for some of these issues that have been with us for some time now.

Radios give health personnel opportunity to educate listeners
A lot of radio stations educate listeners on health issues

I remember that every year around this time, most of the radio stations in Wa will have personnel from Ghana Health Service (GHS) come on air to talk about communicable disease that are common around this time of the year. I left Wa on 28th February this year, so I cannot tell if this yearly activity was carried out. However, I am sure the focus has been shifted more on COVID 19 which came like a thief at night. All other issues and conditions related to health have been relegated to the background. When it first became known that there were recorded cases of this ugly disease, a lot of people still did not pay attention to it. Little efforts were made to put in place measures to help curb this disease. I am not talking of any disease other than Cerebrospinal meningitis commonly known on the tongues of many as CSM. It is a very serious infection that can lead to death especially in cases where the patients do not seek early diagnosis and treatment. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alarmingly, 10-15% of patients diagnosed of CMS die.

CSM is a seasonal and affect a lot of people
CSM affect a lot of people in northern Ghana yearly

About two weeks ago, a lot of young people from the Upper West region were posting messages on social media to ask the government to do something about the increasing number of CSM cases especially after it was reported that about forty people have lost their lives due to CSM. After it was reported that thirty-seven people have died from CSM, people in the region were expecting to hear something from the president in his address to the nation on COVID 19. Unfortunately, nothing was said, many young people felt disappointed about this issue, but then it doesn’t mean we have to fold our hands and watch as more people die from this disease. My contribution is to help more people know about CSM, and what to do to help curb this disease. It may interest you to know that, CSM (Meningitis) is caused by bacterial, viral and fungi which results in the inflammation of the membranes covering (protecting) your brain and spinal cord known as the meninges. In simple terms, the swelling of the meninges caused by bacterial, viral and fungi is known as “meningitis”.

Avoid crowded places such as markets
Avoid crowded places

Our environment plays a key role, such as dry weather, dust winds, high temperatures during the day and cold temperatures at night especially during harmattan and before the rains starts. This explains why there is recent outbreak of CSM in the upper west region, the region is noted to have a very high temperature, dry weather, dusty winds and other harsh weather conditions. Also, people living in over crowded, less ventilated houses and in areas where there are very poor sanitation conditions are vulnerable to respiratory infections, such areas encourage the growth and survival of the bacterial. Bacterial and viral infections are transmitted through tiny droplets of respiratory secretions (such as saliva) from infections during close contact with infected persons such as kissing, sneezing, coughing, sharing of drinking and eating utensils such as cups, drinking glasses, cutlery and so on.

The bacteria can spread when people share very little space
Avoid overcrowding

Anyone can contract CSM but people whose bodies have trouble fighting infections are more vulnerable and susceptible to this disease. The common Signs and Symptoms include sudden high fever, (temperature), severe headache, stiffness of the neck (no wonder in Waale and Dagaare it called nyugbeli baalong, meaning twisted neck disease), increased sensitivity to light (photophobia), nausea and vomiting, confusion, convulsions, muscle pain, bulging/swelling of the anterior fontanelle (soft part of the head) in babies, cold hands or feet and mottled skin, in some cases, a rash that does not fade under pressure. I hope our neighbours from Upper East, Northern, Savannah and North East regions have already taken note and putting in place measures not to get there. Remember the saying that when your neighbour’s beard is on fire, you fetch water and put yours inside?

Early detection and treatment is advised to help prevent long term complications such as loss of sense of hearing (deafness), blindness, epilepsy seizures, brain damage and others. That is why health personnel always emphasis that you see a doctor as soon as you have any of the symptoms of CSM. The Upper West regional minister in his address to the media mentioned that most of the deaths could have been prevented if the patients had reported to the health centres early. The region has recorded 258 cases of CSM with 40 deaths within the period of January 1 to April 12, 2020, the death rate of the disease stood at 15.5 per cent. Even though this is not the first time the region is recoding cases of CSM, this year has been different, the cases are high over a short time and the number of deaths are alarming.

Ensure your homes are ventilated
Ventilation is necessary to keep fresh air in ur homes

This means that there is hope for anyone who experiences any of these symptoms, the only condition is that you have to get to the health centre as soon as possible so that the health personnel can attend to you. We can also avoid direct contact with people who are coughing or sneezing, avoid crowded places, create ventilation in your homes by opening windows to allow the circulation of fresh air (some people even sleep outside on their verandas, but you have to use a mosquito net and ensure that reptiles will not crawl into your sleeping space), seek medical help when you notice any of the symptoms of CSM. Let us also be mindful of how we dress during this season, and take a cold shower as often as we can to help cool the temperature of the body. Fortunately, this comes at a time when the country is under lock down, thus activities of crowded places such as schools, markets, churches, funerals and so on have reduced considerably.

Let us beware of the dos and don'ts
We all have a role to play

The doctors and nurses cannot fight this alone, you and I all have a role to play. I saw a lot of people writing about CSM on social media and tagging most of the “big men”, we have received some good news and some actions have been taken. The WHO has already sent 7500 vials of ceftriaxone, 1,100 infusions and five packs of pastorex to help fight the disease. There is also an additional 540 vials of ceftriaxone from donors to help fight CSM in the region. A team of experts have also been dispatched to the region to help manage the situation.

 

Even as we educate our people about the COVID 19 especially those who do the education through the various radio stations, let us not forget to continue reminding them about all these other diseases, if not while we are busy watching our fighting death externally, it may be in our very midst and before we realise, we are killed by what we never expected. Washing of hands with soap under running water will not only help us stay safe from COVID 19, it will also help us to keep safe from some of these diseases. Let us all join hands to educate and inform others to prevent and avoid contracting CSM,

Co-author of this post
Dora is a poet, a writer and a nurse

This blog post is co-authored by Dora Mwinteroo, she is a nurse assistant, a passionate writer and performing poet. Dora is an advocate for development, togetherness and positivity. We dedicate this piece to all CSM patients, the families of those who have died from CSM and all health professionals in the region fighting against CSM. CHEERS!

 

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29 Comments

  1. Insightful contribution brought forth. Unconsciously, CSM is creating a mess that needs to be wiped off through a collective effort by all. Let’s not leave it in the hands of government. Preventive measures to curb this are in our hands. Let’s not only read but help in practicing.
    Good work Sugar.

  2. Its good to see the youth of the region are taking it upon themselves to create awareness.
    I pray the regional authorities will take the necessary steps and precautions.

  3. Very very insightful and revealing trying to bring all attentions back to an old and annual health problem, hope we the citizens and those who matter will act as swift as possible. Goodwork done Sugar.

  4. Great.like you did.
    How I wish every other person focused on sharing the little s/he has to help fight this epidemic than playing to the gallery. When I read further about it before my advocacy I saw in 1996-7 alone it claimed about 1,800 lives across the country but mostly upper west and east which falls within its most infectious belt. So I asked so why doesn’t govt have a well structured and long term plan to help in prevention since its an occassional kind of thing. It’s sad how our ppl do not take health issues serious enough. Anyone,community or nation that compromises on its health is certain to lose it all.

    We must up our concerns on it and help educate our ppl more. The upper west is not lucky at all we are now the most vulnerable. CSM and Covid-19 is like two slaps on the cheek.

    I pray our ppl adhere to preventive measures by building well ventilated rooms in the long run to help curb it.
    They need seek early treatments too. Like the RM said most of the death cases are as result of delay.
    May Allah save us to get out of these stronger.

    Kudos my dear.
    Beauty and brains ❤

  5. This is a great and insightful piece there. We’re all involved in making our region a better place. Let’s use our various radio stations to propagate the change we wish to see. We could have done some community durbars but social distancing wont permit it. We are available to do public health education on radios if our services are required.
    All in all, it’s a fantastic artwork

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