COVID-19: Precautions to be Taken Amidst Surge in Ghana’s Asymptomatic Cases

A July 21 publication by Graphic Online has the Director General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr. Patrick Kumah Aboagye, saying “82 per cent of Ghana’s COVID-19 active cases are asymptomatic.”

This was revealed during one of the press briefings on Ghana’s Covid-19 management system.

Asymptomatic simply refers to someone contracting a disease without exhibiting any symptoms.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Technical Lead on the Covid-19 pandemic at one of the WHO’s thrice-weekly press briefings in June said they were “not finding secondary transmission onward” from asymptomatic patients. “It’s very rare,” she said.

These comments incited strong pushback from public health experts, who suggested the global health agency had erred, or at least miscommunicated, when it said people who didn’t show symptoms were unlikely to spread the virus.

With the notion that asymptomatic carriers of the virus cannot transmit to others, many have relented on the safety precautions because many of Ghana’s cases are asymptomatic.

But with the WHO itself countering the unlikely spread of the virus by asymptomatic patients a day after it made such assertions in June, much precaution needs to be taken.

However, it appears Ghana is partying over the numerous asymptomatic cases because, probably, to many Ghanaians, the WHO’s earlier comments on the relationship between asymptomatic and transmission stands supreme despite the clarification made a day after.

What really are the dangers associated with how people are treating asymptomatic cases despite the cautions from the WHO and other health institutions. These are the queries on which Fact-check Ghana seeks clarification in this report.

Director of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, Professor Abraham Kwabena Anang, has explained to Fact-check Ghana that asymptomatic patients, like symptomatic carriers, can spread the virus.

Analysing the dangers associated with asymptomatic patients and the mode of transmission, Prof. Anang explained how the family setting could easily aid the mode of transmission especially when one person contracts the disease and doesn’t show any symptoms.

“At home, we don’t go round the house with everybody wearing face mask. Everybody washes their hands from the sitting room to the kitchen so, in the house, it’s not too much like when we are outside. So if one person gets infected because of how the protocols are loosened in there, he or she may end up infecting all the others,” he noted.

Aside from the dangers associated with the spike, asymptomatic cases can cause in transmission. Prof. Anang also indicated probability of the virus’ resurgence after subduing the current cases. This is what is called the waves in transmission.

You can think of it like waves on the sea as James Gallagher, the BBC’s Health and Science Correspondent puts it. The number of infections goes up and then comes back down again – each cycle is one “wave” of coronavirus.

The Noguchi Director underscored the necessity in relaxing some of the restrictions, especially those that will bolster the economy’s resilience. But that, he noted, does not mean people should relegate the preventive protocols as other waves of the virus may be inevitable.

“We are not on the right path when we relax things like that. But because economic activities must go on, people shouldn’t use that as a yardstick to take things for granted. Even though some progress is being made, we should not relax the protocols because there could be a second and even a third wave and we don’t know the outcome of these waves,” Prof. Anang advised.

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Supported by STAR Ghana Foundation with funding from UKAID and the European Union

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