Hand sanitizers and wipes on high demand

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In the wake of the Ebola scare that is looming large in parts of our

West African sub-region and the high incidence of cholera in Ghana,

there is a high demand for hand sanitizers.

In addition to hand sanitizers, wipes are also a preferred choice for

the Ghanaian who is unable to wash hands with soap and water.

The English online dictionary Wikipedia defines a sanitizer as a

supplement or an alternative to hand washing with soap and water. Also

known as hand antiseptic, sanitizers are antiseptic products used to

avoid the transmission of pathogens and they come in gel, foam, and

liquid solutions. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are more effective at

killing microorganisms than soaps and do not dry out hands as much.

Alcohol rub sanitizers are known to mostly kill about 99.999 per cent

of bacteria, fungi and some viruses 30 seconds or a minute after

application on the hands.

With Ghana registering about 300 cholera cases daily, many have

resorted to the purchase of hand sanitizers to protect themselves from

the disease and deadly pestilence.

A quick survey

A quick survey at some of the shopping malls in Accra reveals a

shortage in hand sanitizers and hand wipes. The survey also indicates

that the prices of both the hand sanitizers and wipes keep rising by

the day. At the Oxford Street shopping mall located at Osu, one of the

shop attendants told this writer that they had run out of stock since

Monday. She added that hand wipes also did run out of stock but they

got more supplies during the week. ‘The price of hand sanitizers used

to be GH¢3.00 for the Carex brand and GH¢4.00 for either the Purell

or the Kleenex brand. Now Carex is going for GH¢6.00 and Purell for


At the Madina branch of Melcom, hand sanitizers had run out of stock

at the time the reporter visited. Ophelia, a shop attendant, tells The

General Telegraph Business Desk that many people used to come in and

buy them in bulk, perhaps to resell at higher prices. Ophelia adds

that since the outbreak of cholera in Ghana and the Ebola scare, many

brands of imported sanitizers have shown up on the market. “Brands

like Pharmadem, Sivoderm, Sanigel, Samocid and Dettol are on the

market,” Ophelia added.

She disclosed that when they had hand sanitizers in stock they could

sell at most 20 of them and about 10 of hand wipes. “The least we ever

sold in a day was ten hand sanitizers and three wipes,” Ophelia said.

The A&C shopping mall at East Legon sold their last stock over the

weekend, but it is still a hot commodity that many consumers ask for.

A petty trader at the Madina market says she has made a lot of money

out of the sale of hand sanitizers over this short period. For her, it

is the new lucrative business in town and she, like other market

women, is cashing in. “The Pharmadem and Sivoderm brands of hand

sanitizers used to go for GH¢2.00, but now they are selling at

GH¢5.00. I buy them for GH¢3.50 or GH¢4.00 and sell them for GH¢5.00.”

For health reasons many now carry sanitizers with them every day.

What makes it fascinating is that many celebrities and others have

come up with campaigns to stop the spread of cholera, and of Ebola

should Ghana ever report a case. Their campaign centres on giving one

child a hand sanitizer and teaching children how to use them, thereby

preventing cholera. Such high patronage may account for the shortage

of the commodity.

In one busy wholesale and retail shop at Madina, I overheard a shop

attendant telling her other colleagues not to release the remaining

pack of Carex hand sanitizers on the shelf, as that was their last

stock. I could infer from this that they intended hoarding the

product and later sell it at an exorbitant price, which is nothing new

to Ghanaian traders. It saddened my heart to hear what she said.

What the doctors are saying

As Ghanaians continue to behave as though hand sanitizers were a cure

for cholera or Ebola, I read a story in the dailies captioned “Not

all hand sanitizers can kill viruses.” In the story, the Research

Fellow at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, Dr Kofi

Bonney, cautioned the public to carefully choose the types of hand

sanitizers they buy from the market.

According to the doctor, some hand sanitizers are manufactured to

kill bacteria, some to kill germs or viruses, fungi etc. It is

highly probable, therefore, that some of the sanitizers on the market

are not effective in the fight against viruses.

In my bid to find out more, I interviewed Dr Vincent Ganu, a general

medical practitioner with the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, on whether

sanitizers can protect one from Ebola infection.

“Using sanitizers cannot prevent you from contracting Ebola, but then

it reduces the risk. There are many types of hand sanitizers, so we

should be careful what we buy,” Dr Ganu reiterated.

Dr Vincent Ganu who doubles as the president of the Korle Bu Junior

Doctors Association, revealed that “there are a lot [of

sanitizers] on the market, but no matter the type of sanitizer you

use, it cannot prevent contracting the [Ebola] disease, should it be

recorded in Ghana.”

On what a buyer should look out for in a hand sanitizer, Dr Ganu

advised that one should look out for hand sanitizers with alcohol

content of about 70 per cent or more.

For the education of all, the active ingredients in hand sanitizers

are isopropanol, ethanol, n-propanol or povidone-iodine. All those

actively patronizing hand sanitizers are well advised to check the

alcohol percentage before buying them.

Credit: General Telegraph | Eyra Doe

Kofi Oppong Kyekyeku

I am a Ghanaian Broadcast Journalist/Writer who has an interest in General News, Sports, Entertainment, Health, Lifestyle and many more.

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