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Sunday 20th February - Holly

I was shocked today to see so many people who had missing limbs due to polio - admittedly, I've never known anyone who's contracted polio before, let alone in such a high concentration. According to Micheal, the driver, there was a polio outbreak in Accra 20/30 years ago. I'm not sure of the reason but I guess it would be a fault with the vaccine; in general, 3 doses of the vaccine are required and even then there isn't full protection. Also, there are different strains of the virus circulating and not all vaccines are equally effective against all of the vaccines. Plus, in rare cases, the use of the live version of the vaccine can also cause a mutated and virulent form of the virus - using the live polio virus has been described by some as using fire to fight fire. Perhaps more importantly, however, is the fact that polio is a largely invisible disease. Most people who get polio are largely asymptomatic. They might have flu like symptoms but for the most part it is impossible to know when someone is infected or not. Only a small fraction of those infected with polio develop paralysis or more severe symptoms; by the time we can respond using supplementary immunisation - the disease has likely spread. Perhaps whilst vaccinations were still in their infancy 20 odd years ago, an outbreak was inevitable; these people contracted polio through no fault of their own and as a result of their disability cannot work in Ghana nor will the government support them, thus they are reduced to begging - so sad.
On a brighter note, something I have been curious of since I arrived in Ghana is: why are the bottoms of all the trees whitewashed? Today I finally had the answer: the white paint tends to consist of lime, which acts as an insecticide and provides a protective barrier around the tree, thus preventing ants and other destructive bugs from burrowing into the bark and causing damage to the tree.
Lorinda and Brian very kindly took me to Lombardy hotel where we had a fantastic feast before taking a stroll along the beach. A quick nap was then in order before dinner and, on my part, an awful lot of packing. I will miss both of them and thank them for making my stay so enjoyable.
Posted: 2/22/2011 9:08:58 AM by elaine