Former Deputy Health Minister, Dr Victor Bampoe says the government must not overlook the role congestion plays in the spread of meningitis in Senior High Schools (SHSs).
He said suggestions that congestion is behind the rapid spread of the diseases is valid and scientifically backed.
At least eight (8) students have died in some SHSs across the country after they contracted meningitis between November and December, while four others died within a week at the Kumasi Academy from H1N1 influenza.
Head of Disease and Surveillance Unit at the Ghana Health Service, Dr Franklin Bekoe told Joy News last week congestion is one of the risk factors for the spread of meningitis.
His view has been shared by sections of Ghanaians who believe the increased intake of first-year students due to the implementation of the government’s free SHS policy, may have impacted the spread.
But Health Minister, Kwaku Agyemang Manu, has dismissed the assertion, saying the outbreak of the disease has nothing to do with congestion in SHSs.
Kwaku Agyemang Manu
“If there is congestion and there are 25 people sleeping where five people should be sleeping and there’s meningitis, it won’t attack only one person…I don’t think that’s the major issue or the case burden would be higher, he told Joy News over the weekend.
Speaking, however, on the Super Morning Show on Joy FM Monday, Dr Bampoe who served under the John Mahama administration, advised the government to “err on the side of caution” instead of dismissing the suggestion from a competent health professional.
“There is no reason to doubt Franklin; the danger with it is that in Ghana now once you say something then it is quickly linked to the politics and then you will talk about free SHS and whatever. But if congestion is an issue then let’s address the congestion and take the politics out,” Dr Bampoe told the host of the Show, Kojo Yankson.
Although Dr Bampoe was not emphatic that congestion is to blame for the deaths, he explained, “…when the weather changes people do different things…And so people being in proximity to each other creates the environment for this to spread so if you ask me just looking at the science then yes congestion does potentially play a role.”
“For me, the worrying thing is that…it’s about life and death so let’s assume the worst and work our way backwards,” cautioned.
Dr Bampoe is the Associate Director, Coordinator and Special Adviser to the Fast-Track implementation Department, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS.