Why Nungua residents mooted APOLLO as name for ‘pink eye disease’

Source The Ghana Report

Acute Hemorrhagic Conjunctivitis(AHC) or Pink Eye is one of the diseases in Africa that has gradually shifted from being an epidemic to a state of endemicity due to its predominant recurrence in communities.

The disease started in Nungua, a suburb of the Greater Accra Region on June 26, 1969, with 17 cases being recorded in the first week after the outbreak.

Research conducted by S. Chatterjee, C.O. Quarcoopome et al with the Department of Ophthalmology, Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in March 1970 revealed that the daily attendance of patients with Acute Hemorrhagic Conjunctivitis(AHC) in Nungua rose from 20 to 770 on August 18 and to 1,115 by August 25, 1969.

However, the hospital attendance decreased within a week to 250 by August 31 of the same year and that brought some relief and hope to the residents of Nungua. Although the disease affected many, including children and adults, no deaths were recorded at any medical facility.

“Apollo 11 Disease”
Acute Hemorrhagic Conjunctivitis(AHC) or Pink Eye was later nicknamed “Apollo 11 Disease” by the residents of Nungua.

The people of Nungua were the first to call the epidemic “Apollo 11 Disease” and the name gained popularity across the country.

The research by S. Chatterjee, C.O. Quarcoopome, et al disclosed that two reasons led to the people of Nungua settling on the name “Apollo 11 Disease”.

The first reason was that the people had never heard of or seen such an epidemic of acute conjunctivitis before and did not know its identity, yet they had to give it a name and felt “Apollo 11” was the best name to fit the disease since it often affects both eyes.

The second reason the people of Nungua gave was that at the end of July in the same year when the epidemic was recorded in the suburb, American Apollo 11 landed on the Moon and returned to Earth and people were talking about the possibility of bringing germs from the Moon.

Thus, people promptly associated the disease with Apollo 11 which was definitely unscientific. The disease, however, appeared one long month before the American Apollo 11 expedition.

Other places hit by Acute Hemorrhagic Conjunctivitis(AHC) at the initial stage
The research by S. Chatterjee, C.O. Quarcoopome et al disclosed that on August 21, 1969, a report by the Ghanaian Times with the headline “Apollo 11 illness spread to Tema and Nsawam” explained how the disease has gained feet in other communities within the Greater Accra region especially.

READ ALSO: “Apollo 11”: The Unwelcome Recurring Visitor In Most Ghanaian Homes

The disease later spread far and wide throughout the country within a month.

The Ghana Report in an exclusive interview with Madam Rebecca Amaniampong, a health professional with the Prince of Peace Hospital in Darkuman admonished the public not to panic because there has not been any reported case of ‘Apollo 11 disease’ claiming the life of any patient.

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