Monday, April 15, 2013

CWSA Intensifies Education on Hand Washing With Soap To Avert Leprosy Scare

St. Paul's Lutheran School pupils washing hands with soap
Source: Patrick Baidoo, (Additional Info: Daily Graphic)

Ghana’s quest of achieving a 54% Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target on sanitation by 2015 seem to be hitting on rocky fronts as the country lingers on a skeletal 14% threshold with almost two (2) years to the set deadline.

The MDG goal entreats institutions: to enforce laws, provide essential facilities at all times, and educate communities as well as people to be health and hygiene conscious via awareness creation.

While the State scrambles on its MDG target journey, its alarming to note that the laxity of State institutions, Civil Society and Communities to intensify education on the continuous use of soap and water to thoroughly wash hands at all times may lead to a lot the people contracting the germs that causes tuberculosis, leprosy and buruli ulcer, as well as food poisoning, minor skin infections and severe life-threatening infections, a study conducted recently by two Ghanaian Scientist has shown.

The news is alarming, considering that we use our fingers or hands for virtually everything that we do from cleaning our anus after toileting, shaking hands with colleagues, eating, sneezing, picking of items and handling of the cedi note, amongst others.

This means that we are all prone to contracting the germs that causes any of the diseases stated most especially when the study reveals that 98.6 per cent of Ghanaian cedi notes are contaminated with bacteria.

According to the study, which was conducted in 2009, some of the cedi notes were contaminated with pathogenic micro-organisms which could spread diseases.

“Pathogenic micro-organisms that may survive on the Ghanaian currency notes may serve as a potential source of food poisoning because in Ghana food vendors serve food with the hands and at the same time handle currency notes as they sell,” it noted.

The study established that one-cedi notes were the most contaminated, followed by the five-cedi notes and the 10-cedi notes.

The staggering revelations of the study mean that people who handle cedi notes but do not have the habit of washing their hands before eating stand a high risk of getting infected with various kinds of diseases, more over when many Ghanaians do not have the habit of washing their hands with soap frequently.

The study was conducted by Mr Patrick Feglo and Mr Michael Nkansah of the Department of Clinical Microbiology of the School of Medical Sciences and the Department of Medical Laboratory Technology of the Faculty of Allied Health Sciences, respectively, both of the College of Health Sciences of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).

After the laboratory analyses of 70 cedi notes of various denominations, 112 different bacteria were isolated from 69 currency notes, representing a contamination percentage of 98.57.

“One of the currency notes which appeared new and ‘seemingly clean’ did not grow any bacterium,” the study revealed.

The researchers observed that Ghanaian currency notes were handled by all manner of people, including food vendors who served food and handled currency notes at the same time, making the notes dirty and cross-contaminated.

The study, therefore, sought to determine bacterial species and the level of contamination of the cedi notes in circulation. In that regard, the researchers collected cedi notes at random from food vendors in Kumasi for the scientific investigation.

It involved the collection of cedi notes at random from ready-to-eat food sellers on the KNUST campus.
It was an observational cross-sectional study involving 70 currency notes collected at random. The currency notes studied were 30 one-cedi notes, 30 five-cedi notes and 10 of the 10-cedi notes.

Each currency note was collected directly into a sterile plastic bag and transported to the Diagnostic Laboratory of the Department of Microbiology, KNUST, soon after collection and examined for bacterial contamination.

Hence CWSA Intensifies Education on Hand Washing With Soap

As result of preventing the diseases mentioned in the latter article which may lead to deaths and uphold its mandate of promoting hygiene practises to change behaviours, Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) has taken the education on hand washing with soap to the school.

In that vein, the CWSA has donated a 10,000 litre water storage facility and hygiene promotion materials to St. Paul Lutheran School, in Accra.

The Director, Administration and Human Resource, Mr. Orston Astu Dartey, making the donation noted that handwashing with soap was among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diarrheal diseases and pneumonia, which together are responsible for the majority of child deaths, as such the need to intensify awareness on the subject.

“This behavior is projected to become a significant contribution to meeting the Millennium Development Goal of reducing deaths among children under the age of five by two-thirds by 2015”, he indicated.

He advised the pupils to inculcate the hand washing with soap habit because hands often act as vectors that carry disease-causing pathogens from person to person, either through direct contact or indirectly via surfaces and in so doing avoid diseases.

“Humans can spread bacteria by touching other people's hand, hair, nose, and face. Hands that have been in contact with human or animal feces, bodily fluids like nasal excretions, and contaminated foods or water can transport bacteria, viruses and parasites to unwitting hosts. Hand washing with soap works by interrupting the transmission of disease”.

On her part, the Chief Extension Services Coordinator – CWSA, Mrs. Theodora Adomako – Adjei, took the children through the act of hand washing with soap thoroughly in order to achieve desired results.

Washing hands with water alone is significantly less effective than washing hands with soap in terms of removing germs. Although using soap in hand washing breaks down the grease and dirt that carry most germs, using soap also means additional time consumed during the massaging, rubbing, and friction to dislodge them from fingertips, and between the fingers, in comparison with just using water for hand washing.

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