Earlier last month, Vacation Initiatives in Science Africa (VISA), a registered nongovernmental educational establishment that has the foundational goal of encouraging the study of practical science at all levels of education in Ghana and Africa, engaged more than 200 students in Oda, Ghana, in infectious disease outbreak activities.
As part of the engagement activities, we discussed the occurrence of disease outbreaks, the role of infectious disease scientists and the community in containing the outbreak, as well as preventing secondary infections. With this, we discussed the importance of proper personal hygiene, laying emphasis on effective hand washing in preventing infections. We finally discussed the importance of quarantining and vaccination in preventing disease outbreaks. http://www.ghanaianews.com/2019/07/11/the-role-of-vacation-initiative-in-science-africavisa/
Little did we know that our engagement activities were preparing the students for a rather imminent incidence. The 2019 Wuhan Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak which became very popular towards the end of January has become a nightmare. It is now confirmed that the severity of the 2019-nCoV outbreak surmounts that of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) outbreak in 2002-2003 which was responsible for about 8,000 cases and 800 deaths in 26 countries and the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERSCoV) which affected 2,294 people and caused 858 deaths in 27 countries. The 2019 Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is an acute respiratory disease that spreads through the air. As of 31st January 2020, 11,791 people have been infected with at least 259 deaths in China alone. Meanwhile, a total of 187 cases have been confirmed in countries in Asian Pacific, Middle East, the Americas and Europe, with some suspected cases across the globe. No confirmed cases have been reported in West Africa even though a case has been reported in Botswana, Southern Africa. Meanwhile, the Ghana Health Service has put in measures to ensure that the virus does not spread to Ghana.
We believe that our engagement activities with students in junior and senior high schools is timely and will help them to protect themselves and others from the disease should it spread to Ghana and specifically to their area. In addition to our discussions on the spread, symptoms and prevention of air-borne viral diseases, the World Health Organisation has outlined guidelines of the precautionary measures to take in the event of suspected cases. Some of which include covering of the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, quarantining people suspected to be infected, avoiding raw or undercooked foods and contact with live animals, frequent hand washing with soap and running water and the use of hand sanitizers is encouraged, etc. More information can be found here: https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200131-sitrep-11ncov.pdf?sfvrsn=de7c0f7_2).
In May 2019, VISA engaged over 400 students in Accra and Nkurakan in the same activities. Therefore, we believe that the students are prepared and will employ what they learnt from us to keep their families and friends safe.
Thanks to the Alexander Akwasi Acquah (AAA) foundation and The Community Hospitals Group, Microbiology Society, UK and Hardy Wren development Initiative, UK for their sponsorship. Also, thanks to Prof. Ian Goodfellow of Cambridge University, Dr Lucy Thorne of UCL, the Wellcome Trust and Cambridge-Africa for their support.
Finally, a profound appreciation to our able scientists and students from Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, Legon and the West Africa Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP), Legon and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi for their support and mentorship.
By Sabastine Eugene Arthur, Millicent Opoku and Charles Prempeh
Sabastine is with the Department of Pathology, Division of Virology at the University of Cambridge, UK.
Millicent is with the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research at the Department of Parasitology.
Charles is with the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge, UK.