COVID-19 UPDATE: Be alert for flu-like symptoms during harmattan

Members of the general public have been cautioned to be on high alert for COVID-19 should they experience flu-like symptoms as the harmattan season sets in.

Member of the COVID-19 Management Team at the Greater Accra Regional Hospital (GARH-Ridge), Dr Emmanuel Addipa-Adapoe,  urged that rather than resorting to home remedies, people should be quick to report to nearest health centre to establish the exact diagnosis and avert the worst.

He was speaking to the Ghanaian Times during a monitoring visit of some COVID-19 treatment centres and health facilities within the Greater Accra region where positive cases of the disease are reportedly on the increase in the last few days.

Checks at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) for instance indicates that about 60 new COVID-19 cases were recorded at the facility last week with the GARH recording averagely five cases a day within the same period.

This, according to health experts, was likely worsen in coming days as the Christmas festivities sets in if the public failed to adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols and vaccination.

Flu’s or influenza’s are highly contagious respiratory diseases caused by viruses affecting the nose, throat and lungs resulting in coughs, sneeze, fevers, headaches and sometimes diarrhoea which often occurs during harmattan where dry, dusty wind blows from the Sahara desert in late December and at times continues until early February.

Dr Addipa-Adapoe, who is a Medical Laboratory Scientist, explained that unlike the Delta and Beta variants of COVID-19 which mostly presents itself in headaches, sore throat, fever and coughs, the Omicron strain largely affected the upper respiratory tract of the human system.

“Omicron has affinity for the upper respiratory tract of the human system and that is why its mutations are more contagious and widespread. We are likely to see more of upper respiratory tract symptoms like running nose, moderate fever, bodily weakness, joint pains and general malaise which is common to this season.

People should be on the high alert that such symptoms could be COVID-19. Any flu-like symptoms at this time should make you think of Omicron until otherwise proven and it is better to report at the hospital, get tested and properly treated or managed,” he advised.

The Medical Officer said the golden rule of hand hygiene; frequent washing of hands with soap under running water and the application of alcohol-based hand sanitisers, was crucial to minimise infections caused by viruses.

“Even if fully vaccinated (because it is possible the antibodies in your body may wane and expose you to re-infection), the mask is your best protective equipment at this time.

Avoid overcrowded areas. Choose open spaces over indoor meetings; if you are in a closed area for more than 15 minutes take a break and move out. Avoid touching your mouth, eye and nose,” he advised.

Dr Addipa-Adapoe further stressed the need for people to avail themselves to take the COVID-19 vaccines to help achieve herd immunity in the country and reduce severe illnesses and deaths associated with the virus.

Meanwhile, in less than a week, Ghana’s active cases have shot up by over 200 cases from 973 to 1,174 as of December 13, 2021.

Some 18 persons are in severe conditions per data presented by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and so far 1,257 have died from the disease.

Nonetheless, as of December 20, 2021, nearly 7 million out of a targeted 20 million people have received at least a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

BY ABIGAIL ANNOH

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