CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) AND THE WORKFORCE BEHIND THE TESTING IN GHANA
Coronaviruses (CoV) are large family of viruses that causes illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.
The pandemic coronavirus Infection (COVID-19) is a new strain that was discovered in December 2019 in Wuhan, China after the outbreak of person-to-person transmission.
Globally, over one hundred and fifty thousand (150,000) cases have been confirmed with more than five thousand (5,000) deaths recorded and over seventy thousand (70,000) cases recovered. In Africa, as at 16th March 2020, three hundred and seventy-six (376) cases have been confirmed with seven (7) deaths recorded and thirty-nine (39) cases recovered.
Ghana has six (6) cases confirmed without any record of death and recovery. The President of the Republic immediately addresses the nation on measures taken to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the country. Earlier on, the Ministry of Health (MoH) and Ghana Health Service (GHS) have also taken measures to curb the spread of the disease. These measures include but not limited to;
1. Alert message sent to all regions in Ghana on the outbreak in addition to guidance information on the disease.
2. Enhanced surveillance at points of entry especially the Kotoka International Airport.
3. Laboratory testing of COVID-19 in suspected human cases by Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research.
However, Ghana currently has two testing facilities – the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research and Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine.
The questions most Ghanaians are asking are –
1. Why only these two testing facilities for COVID-19 in Ghana?
The answer is that Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research and Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine are the two well-equipped laboratories with resources needed for testing the pandemic coronavirus (COVID-19).
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19, the most widely used testing method is the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). It is widely used in virology and molecular biology to rapidly make millions of copies of a specific DNA sample for scientific analyses. The two (2) most common types of PCR used are the Nested RT-PCR and the Real-time RT-PCR. Real-time RT-PCR has emerged as a technological innovation and is playing an ever-increasing role in clinical diagnostics and research laboratories. Due to its capacity to generate both qualitative and quantitative results, it is considered an essential device. In Ghana, the Real-time RT-PCR is employed by professionals to rapidly detect the pandemic coronavirus infection. Considering the capacity, application and importance of this device, most government health facilities should be provided with at least one PCR machine.
The COVID-19 should be a wake-up call for government to well-equip the Public Health Laboratories, Teaching Hospital Laboratories and Regional Hospital Laboratories with equipment and accoutrements needed for the testing of special cases like the current coronavirus. Let me echo that “a hospital without a well-equipped laboratory is deficient and does not qualify to be a hospital.”
2. Who are the professionals behind the testing of the pandemic Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Ghana?
The answer is – Medical Laboratory Scientists also known as the “disease detectives.”
These professionals generate accurate and reliable laboratory data needed to aid in diagnosis and treatment of a disease. “There is no accurate diagnosis without laboratory testing.” The services rendered by these committed professionals are very vital in quality healthcare delivery and that they continued to play a vital role in disease prevention, detection, surveillance and patient management in the country.
As a concerned citizen of this country, I urge the government to give these professionals the needed attention and support to make our health system a better one. Ghanaians deserve better and a health system without adequate and quality laboratory services is of no use to the patients and the citizens at large.
Also, more laboratories should be equipped to handle some special cases like the current COVID-19 to minimize the transportation of samples from one facility to the other for testing.
Finally, I urge fellow Ghanaians to join the campaign on the pandemic COVID-19 sensitization in order to increase awareness. Tell a friend to tell a friend, CORONAVIRUS is real. Be on guard.
LONG LIVE GHANA
LONG LIVE MEDICAL LABORATORY PROFESSIONALS!
WE ARE TOGETHER.
EMMANUEL NII OTOO DODOO
UNIVERSITY FOR DEVELOPMENT STUDIES DOCTOR OF MEDICAL LABORATORY SCIENCE
Let’s appreciate the effort of these professionals