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Is it a cold ? Or just a common cold?





Stuffy nose, itchy throat and pounding headache. Most times, these symptoms are associated with common colds and are assumed to eventually disappear with some intake of medication! Some folks believe the natural remedy of taking in warm water with some amount of honey or the favourite “chicken soup recipe” would do the trick of bringing relief!

However, how sure can one be to know that the symptoms are that of a flu or a common cold? Though these diseases appear to have similar symptoms, the flu tends to be more severe with potential life threatening complications compared to the common cold. As such, it is essential for one to know the difference..

What is a common cold ?

Common cold is an acute viral infection in the throat and nasal passages. It is caused by a range a viruses with rhino virus being the lead. Categories of persons susceptible to this disease are children (usually below the age of 6), persons with chronic illnesses and cigarette smokers. Symptoms of colds develop gradually. They last from five to seven (5-7) days and sometimes up to ten (10) days! The body naturally tends to heal itself from this disease with no medication however, pain killers and decongestants do help in providing relief.

What is a flu?

Influenza, also called the flu is a common but serious viral infection of the lungs and airways. There are three (3) types of flu namely influenza A, B and C . Types A and B are those known to cause seasonal epidemics while C causes mild respiratory infection. It symptoms are abrupt and intense, making patients unable to perform daily functions for a week or longer. The flu is more likely to develop complications such as pneumonia which may lead to patients being hospitalized. High risk individuals such as the elderly, very young people and individuals with weak immune systems may find the flu to be especially dangerous to their health.

Differentiating symptoms of cold from flu include the following; 

1. Cough

Coughs from colds are characterized by the production of phlegm but flu usually produce dry coughs with no mucus .

2. Fatigue, sneezing and sore throat 

Contagious cold symptoms begin slowly. The first cold symptoms are fatigue, sneezing and sore throat . During the first day or two , these symptoms manifest. At this point, it is important to rest as much as possible to minimize the fatigue. With flu , fatigue can lasts up to two to three (2-3) weeks, periodically resulting in extreme exhaustion. Sore throat is usually not common in flu.

3. Nasal Symptoms 

It is common to experience runny nose and congestion during the third and fourth days of a cold. The runny nose may be accompanied with discharge that becomes thicker, yellow or green during the progression of the cold. 

Unlike the cold, the flu is sometimes present with nasal congestion. 

4. Muscle aches 

It is much more common to experience severe muscle aches with the flu as compared to the cold.

5. Headache

Headaches are caused as a result of too much fluid or sticky mucus in the nose, which causes pressure in the sinuses. Headache is more common with flu than with cold .

Treatment management 

• Prescriptions like Tamiflu, an antiviral medication may reduce the length of the illness. This is usually prescribed after the doctor has diagnosed that it is flu. 

• A very important step to take, which most people ignore is to allow the body to rest as much as possible. Resting gives the body a chance to fight off the infection and to boost the immune system.

• Eating well and staying hydrated is important to deal with the cold or flu. Drinking lots of warm water and liquids may aid in rehydrating the body and alleviate the congestion, sore throat and coughing.

• Using a humidifier may make it easier to breathe. 

• Fevers can be treated with acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

• Cough drops may soothe a dry or sore throat and help lessen the cough.

• Warm baths and cold showers could offer some comfort when experiencing chills or fever. 

• Because the flu makes individuals more susceptible to other illnesses such as pneumonia, bronchitis and sinusitis, it is best to seek professional help as soon as the symptoms start showing.

How to protect and prevent the spread of flu and colds. 

• Both illnesses are spread through contact with an infected person or their respiratory droplets, which are produced by coughing or sneezing. These droplets are sprayed into the air and inhaled or get onto surfaces such as doorknobs, which can then get on the hands on an individual. The virus manages to enter the body, as a result of one touching the mouth or eyes. 

Practicing good hygiene such as frequent hand washing before eating, can help prevent colds or flu. In cases where soap and water are not available, a hand sanitizer can be a good replacement.

• It is also important to make sure that the mouth and nose are covered when coughing and sneezing to prevent the spread of the diseases.

• The flu can also be prevented with a safe and effective vaccine . It also prevents the spread of flu to others, including vulnerable people who are more likely to be hospitalized or die from the flu. (Young children, elderly, cancer patients or people who aren’t vaccinated). However, it is still possible to get the flu even after taking the flu shot since it is not a perfect vaccine. 

There is no need to panic if any of these symptoms are being experienced. These illnesses are also easily preventable. It is important to practise proper personal hygiene and eat good food to boost the immune system. Simply get treatment as soon as possible if any of these symptoms are experienced. 

Next time you think you have a cold check again it could be a flu!

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Realities of The Health System In Ghana : Close Up Experience




So while I was incarcerated in Ridge Prison, sorry oh, I meant while I was admitted in Ridge Hospital, I experienced and observed what I thought was pretty amazing and what filled me with hope and pride.

It is not a teaching Hospital but there was a whole lot of teaching constantly going on.
I saw young nurses in their early 20s usually wearing green, always coming round to take my temperature, blood pressure and oxygen levels. They washed me, changed my bed, changed my dressing, my colostomy bag, kept up with my iv and my medications etc.
They were constantly polite and attentive.
There were times especially at night when the ward was very short staffed and if you were in distress, no matter how long you pressed the bell or shouted for a nurse, nobody would come. I remember one night I was in total distress and had to sleep in my pooh and blood and was in pain till Katharine came to me in the morning. Needless to say, she was livid and went to blast the nurse who was there. I kinda felt sorry for them because I knew how overstretched they had been. But after the blasting, I was treated with the utmost speed and care.

My sister Mansa called the young female nurses in green Mars bars because to her they were sweet and cute as they flitted about the wards from one bed to another.
The very first morning after my surgery, I groggily woke up to see what looked like several nurses in white all looking very tentative and nervous. There were two supervisors (male and female) asking them questions and observing them as they went round talking to patients.
I initially thought they were part of the Ridge Hospital staff and were in training, only to discover that they were from Valley View University and were on a Nursing Degree course.

So this is the little I found out about Nursing training in Ghana.
Nurses can do a 2 year Nursing Certificate which teaches all the Nursing basics and equips them with the skills to work competently in hospital.
After that they graduate to a 3 year Nursing Diploma which has more rigorous training.
Both Certificate and Diploma nurses tend to do all the mundane and difficult work in the wards and often complain about bad pay. Because of this they feel compelled to go on to do the 4 year Nursing Degree.
After all this training, about 9 years, you can imagine how knowledgeable and professional the Nurses on the wards are. If you had a Nursing Degree you got much more pay and respect.

The Senior nurses where constantly teaching the Junior nurses. “Come and see this”. “Have you ever seen or changed a colostomy bag before? Come and see how it is done”.
The teaching was constant. There was a lot of jovial banter between them as well as some conflict when the stress was on.
I remember one verbal cat fight between a Senior and Junior nurse which turned out to be a simple misunderstanding and lack of communication.

There was a male nurse called Raheem who I bonded with. Man that guy really took care of me. Then there was another male nurse I call the DJ because his cell phone was constantly blaring out afro beat and he literally danced and sang while doing his work.
Those nurses worked their bloody socks off and they often seemed merciless and ruthless. Especially when I was in abject pain and needed any type of drug or medication to ease my pain, they would just say “Mr Ampomah it’s not time for your meds yet. Just hold on a little longer”. Damn that was the worst. They were immovable in their resolve to give me my meds at the right time no matter what I was going through.
There was some risqué banter as well but we won’t go there.

All in all the Nurses seemed to be a well organised and autonomous unit functioning within a wider network.
One Nursing Supervisor in particular was the epitome of calm coolness in the way she organised her Nursing team on the wards.
Then there were the Doctors and their teams.
I remember a Consultant, Dr Oboubi and his team. They came into ward 5, a team of about 15 Junior Doctors. I remember how he presided over them asking them what they knew about each inmate, sorry I meant patient, and what they would do given a particular medical challenge or scenario.
The Doctors were sometimes hesitant but always ready with sensible answers. His team were a serious group.

And then there was Dr Twumasi, the surgeon who operated on me. He is short and slight but his confidence and arrogance made him seem bigger than Shaquille O’neal. Katharine did not immediately take to him at all. He had a very brusque manner. But I liked him. He amused me with his cocky behaviour. He carried himself like a rockstar.

His Team was called the B Team and they were as confident as their Consultant.
They would come up with answers to any questions fired at them by Twumasi. One Nigerian Doctor in particular was all fired up. She was hot and ready with answers, suggestions and questions. She used to pass by almost on a daily basis to find out how I was doing. So did other members of the B team. Dr Omane was the Team lead of the Junior Drs. Tall and self assured and very smart. I felt very confident anytime he and the B Team passed by. Then Dr Kuntu Blankson who helped us to join the dots between General Surgery, Urology and Neurosurgery. He was such a big help. Dr Patricia Tamakloe a Junior B Team member would pass by and make sure everything was okay. She checked my meds and made new prescriptions. She would talk to me and find out more about me and what I did. She was generally very caring.

The B Team rocked.
I was really impressed though by another Consultant who came with a small team of 3 to examine Delight’s injury. He was a plastic surgeon. My goodness, this guy was super animated and passionate about teaching his team about skin grafting and what to watch out for. He emphasised every word. He sounded and literally acted like a pastor delivering a sermon to his 3 person congregation. I loved his passion for teaching and listening to him brought me to tears.
I was very emotional. All this teaching that was going on completely impressed me. We put down our medical system without realising what goes on behind the scenes.
I also learnt a bit about what it takes to be a Doctor in Ghana.

After 6 years at Medical School, one does a 2 year Housemanship in a Hospital. You then become a licensed Medical Officer.
Then you can get a residency where you specialise in whatever area you are passionate about. You do this for an average of 3 years depending on your chosen speciality.
Then you become a Consultant.
So by the time you become a Consultant you have been learning and practising for at least 11 to 12 years.
The training is in depth and very rigorous. The hours are long and it is demanding. The Doctors were easily there each day for up to 12 hours a day.

Just as with the nurses, there was a lot of banter between the Doctors.
Doctor and Nurse relationships were quite amicable at Ridge Hospital. There seemed to be a lot of mutual respect.
I also questioned these medics and found out where they came from, where they lived, about their family etc etc.

I gained a lot of deep respect and admiration for these special set of people, the medics of Ridge Hospital. It wasn’t always perfect and sometimes mistakes were made but boy oh boy the system they have going on there works well and they are highly professional.
I still keep in touch with some of them.and I am full of gratitude for all that they have done for me.

Mr.Ampomah writes……

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COVID-19 Vaccine Suspension:What We Know So Far




So,you have probably seen headlines about the temporary suspension of COVID-19 vaccination campaigns in Europe,and you might have some questions.

“Breaking “ science and health stories can be confusing and hard to follow.Here’s what we know about the pause in the rollout of the Oxford -AstraZeneca vaccine:

Several countries,including France,Germany and Italy in Europe,and the DRC in Africa,have paused or postponed the rollout of the Oxford -AstraZeneca vaccine as a “precautionary “ measure.This follows reports of blood clots in people who had received the vaccine

Precautionary means that scientists have not found evidence that the vaccine caused the issues-they just want more time to investigate.

Other countries,including the UK,Canada,and many African countries,are continuing their vaccine rollouts.

Health authorities in these countries,which have deployed millions of doses of vaccines ,have stated that they have not seen increased rates of blood clots reported after having the vaccine.

The European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization are concerned that pausing vaccine rollouts will cost lives.WHO is carefully reviewing the data ,and any changes will be communicated

Vaccines are key to ending the COVID-19 pandemic and saving lives.Vaccines undergo rigorous safety testing in order to be approved for us by WHO and national governments-this includes the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

This is a developing story……More to come

You can also follow expert sources such as WHO,UNICEF and AFRICA CDC

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What’s In the COVID-19 Vaccines




The vaccine primarily contains salts and stabilizers in the forms of sugars and lipids, which don’t cause allergic reactions. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines are both mRNA vaccines, which use a copy of a natural chemical called mRNA to provoke the body’s immune response. When the immune response is activated, it protects the body from acquiring an infection. “The RNA is packaged in a similar manner in both vaccines, which requires the use of polyethylene glycol, the chemical suspected to induce allergic reactions in a few patients who had an allergic reaction to the Pfizer vaccine,” Sanjeev Jain, MD, PhD, board-certified allergist and immunologist at Columbia Allergy based on the West Coast, tells very well. 

Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine contains:

  • A nucleoside-modified messenger RNA (modRNA) encoding the viral spike glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2
  • Lipids, or fatty substances, including: (4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate), 2-[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N, N-ditetradecylacetamide, 1,2-distearoyl-snglycero-3-phosphocholine, and cholesterol
  • Potassium chloride
  • Monobasic potassium phosphate
  • Sodium chloride (salt)
  • Dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate 
  • Sucrose (sugar)

The Moderna vaccine contains similar ingredients such as:

  • Messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA)
  • Lipids, or fatty substances, including: SM(sphyngomyelin)-102, Polyethylene glycol [PEG] 2000 dimyristoyl glycerol [DMG], 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine [DSPC], and cholesterol
  • Tromethamine
  • Tromethamine hydrochloride
  • Acetic acid
  • Sodium acetate
  • Sucrose (sugar)

Both vaccines are similar when it comes to ingredients. “The primary difference between the two is that the packaging of the RNA in the Moderna vaccine allows for storage in a regular freezer, compared to ultra-cold freezers required for the storage of the Pfizer vaccine,” Jain says.

Although allergic reactions to the vaccines are possible, Jain says the risk of a reaction to the current COVID-19 vaccines is fairly low. “Most allergic reactions can be attributed to the preservatives or the vial stoppers that are made with latex,” he says. “The vaccine does not contain any of these ingredients.”

Allergic Reactions

There is some concern that vaccine can cause anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. According to Jain and Lakiea Wright, MD, board-certified allergist and immunologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Massachusetts, the COVID-19 vaccines are unlikely to trigger anaphylaxis.

“Anaphylaxis to vaccines is extremely rare,” Wright tells very well. “There is a vaccine-adverse reporting system in the U.S. and although there is variation among different vaccines, on average, the incidence of anaphylaxis after vaccination is approximately 1.3 cases per one million.”

Although it is rare, other allergic reactions can still occur which can be mild to life-threatening. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people should receive the vaccination in a facility where anaphylaxis can be treated.5

While the risk of allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine is low, there is a possibility that a person could react differently. “Any time you take a medication, your body can perceive the medication as foreign, as a threat, and your immune system can mount a response which triggers your allergy cells to fire off,” Wright says. 

Wright stresses that reports of allergic reactions to the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines do not mean that people with all types of allergies shouldn’t get the vaccine. A person’s eligibility for the vaccine depends on their specific allergy history. 

Managing Allergic Reactions

If you decide to get the COVID-19 vaccine, observe for any symptoms or allergic reactions.Jain says a number of symptoms can all indicate a systemic reaction to the vaccine, including:

  • A tickle or clearing of the throat
  • Postnasal drainage
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Tight chest or shortness of breath
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Difficulty swallowing

According to Wright, there are ways to treat allergic reactions, like antihistamines. “In some cases, it may be appropriate to treat with steroids,” he adds. “For a severe allergic reaction, for example, anaphylaxis, the primary treatment is epinephrine.”

Plan Accordingly

If you are planning to take the COVID-19 vaccine, Wright recommends discussing your allergies with your healthcare provider. “If you have any concerns about past allergic reactions and risk for vaccination, make sure you discuss this in detail with your healthcare provider,” Wright says.

If you experience symptoms away from the vaccination shot site, Jain states that you might be experiencing a systemic reaction. “It is a good idea to do a body inventory prior to your injection; make a mental note of any active allergy symptoms for the day,” Jain says. “This will best help the medical staff in determining any change in condition after the shot  

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