Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to brief the House on Ghana's preparedness and response to Ebola.
Mr Speaker, on the 8th of August, 2014 the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease in West Africa as a public health emergency of international concern. This outbreak is the first of a kind that has gone beyond the borders of one country with large numbers of cases from rural and urban areas.
The disease is commonly spread from one person to another, through close contact with blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected or dead animals. It is also spread through direct physical contact with body fluids of infected persons like blood, saliva, stool, vomitus, urine, and soiled linen. Burial ceremonies where mourners have direct contact with the body of the deceased person can play a role in the transmission of Ebola.
Mr Speaker, since the World Health Organisation was notified of the outbreak, a total of 13,042 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of Ebola virus disease have been reported in six countries as at 2nd November, 2014. The countries are Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Spain and the United States of America. Nigeria and Senegal are two previously affected countries. There have also been 4,960 reported deaths. The outbreaks in Senegal and Nigeria were declared over on the 17th and 19th October, 2014 respectively. At the country level, the weekly incidence appears to be stable in Guinea. In Sierra
Leone the weekly incidence continues to rise, while in Liberia it appears to be declining.
In the three countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, transmission remains persistent and widespread, particularly in the capital cities. All administrative districts in Liberia and Sierra Leone have reported at least, one confirmed or probable case since the outbreak began. Cases and deaths continue to be under- reported in this outbreak. Of the countries with localised transmission, Mali and the United States of America continue to monitor potential contacts.
Mr Speaker, His Excellency President John Dramani Mahama has been at the forefront of the fight against the disease. Under his leadership, Ghana is playing a leadership role in the co-ordination of a sub-regional response to the Ebola outbreak. This has led to the decision by the United Nations to site its Mission for Emergency Ebola Response, UNMEER in Accra.
Mr Speaker, in Ghana, as at 13 th November, 119 suspected Ebola cases have been reported and tests at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research have all turned out negative. We therefore, have no confirmed case of Ebola in Ghana as of now.
We have had Ghanaian fishermen from Sierra Leone and Liberia returning to towns like Komenda. There was also the case of Ghanaian workers from Sierra Leone through Paga. The refugee camp at Budumburam is also noted for the constant interaction between Liberians in Ghana and their relatives back in Liberia. In all of these instances, these travellers have been identified and monitored. The local health systems have alerted their
contact tracing teams to monitor and follow these returnees up to the maximum incubation period of 21 days without the development of any adverse effects of concern. The alert system in the communities detected these travellers and called to action the local health systems to respond. This gives an indication of the sensitivity of the surveillance system.
Mr Speaker, the Government of Ghana has set up an Inter-Ministerial Co- ordinating Committee to harmonise and monitor the implementation of sectorial plans. Membership consists of the Ministers for Defence, Communications, Interior, and Local Government and Rural Development as well as representatives of the Ghana Immigration Service, NADMO and other agencies. The Minister for Health chairs the Committee, while the Chief of Staff at the Presidency provides oversight. The Committee meets weekly to review and discuss the progress of implementation of the plans for a national response and co-ordinate resource mobilisation to that effect.
The Ministry of Health has set up a National Technical Co-ordinating Committee (NTCC) that advises, and where required, assists with imple- mentation of the health sector preparedness and response plan.
Mr Speaker, an Incident Management System has been established to identify, isolate and manage any case of Ebola that is detected in Ghana. It consists of an Emergency Operations Centre with an Incident Commander in the person of the Deputy Minister for Health, Dr Victor Bampoe. The Emergency Operations Centre has been put in place to:
1. identify, isolate and manage incidents of Ebola in rapid response time and co-ordinate all activities regarding the control of the infection;