Outbreak of a “strange” phenomenon reported in Ghana

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On 8 February 2013, health authorities in Ghana received reports of the sudden outbreak of a “strange” phenomenon  affecting people along the coastline of Aflao, near the country’s boarder with Togo.

Affected patients reported acute onset of cough, sneezing and chest pain.  About 28 persons reported that they had experienced these symptoms which resolved on self-medication and/or when they left the coastline. No severe cases or deaths have been reported.

Unconfirmed reports also have it that the phenomenon was widespread along the immediate coastline of Togo, affecting mostly fishermen. Similar reports  point to possibility of chemical waste dumped  into the sea being the  cause of  the symptoms.

Health authorities in Ghana are investigating the “strange” phenomenon and have directed  that all patients reporting to the health facilities in the affected areas with sneezing, coughing and running nose be thoroughly investigated.

Radio announcements are on-going for people with symptoms of the “strange” phenomenon to report at the Municipal Hospital for management and investigation. All health facilities in the district have been requested to record and report cases with the symptoms to the district authorities. Health staff at the Aflao port have been sensitized on the symptoms and advised to report suspected cases. Since that day and as at 19 February no other cases have been reported.

The WHO Country Office in Ghana is liaising closely with the Ministry of Health in theinvestigation and follow up. It is also sharing investigation findings with the WHO Regional Office for Africa (AFRO) so that appropriate support can be provided.

AFRO is liaising with the WHO Inter-country support team for West Africa and WCO/Ghana, both of which are closely monitoring the situation.