WHO confirms 50 deaths, 652 cases of meningitis in Kebbi, Sokoto
Nigeria ranked 187 out of 190 countries with poor health systems
WORLD Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed 652 cases of meningococcal disease, including 50 deaths in 10 local government areas of Kebbi and Sokoto states.
According to a statement by the WHO, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) of the Federal Ministry of Health of Nigeria, between January 26 and March 5, 2015, notified WHO of 652 suspected cases of meningococcal disease, including 50 deaths.
The WHO said laboratory tests have confirmed the predominance of Neisseria meningitidis serogroup C in the affected areas, with no other serogroups being identified and that there has been a recent emergence of suspected cases of meningococcal disease in Zamfara State; however, an outbreak has not yet been confirmed.
The WHO statement reads: “A national task force was activated to manage the outbreak. WHO and partners, including Médecins Sans Frontières and UNICEF, are closely monitoring the situation, and providing support to the government of Nigeria for the implementation of a mass vaccination campaign and other emergency control measures. The International Coordinating Group (ICG) on Vaccine Provision for Epidemic Meningitis Control has released 204 850 doses of vaccine, with the support of the GAVI Alliance, as well as 5 000 antibiotic vials to respond to the outbreak. Case management and social mobilisation activities are also ongoing.”
Cerebrospinal meningitides is a bacterial disease caused by infection of several microorganisms; among these, Neisseria Meningitides (Nm) is the most common cause of bacterial meningitis. The disease is highly contagious with seasonal epidemics in many African countries. Since the introduction of the Men A conjugate vaccine (MenAfrivac), which protects against the most prevalent type of Nm (serogroup A) the occurrence of the disease has declined significantly.
From 2011 to 2014, the government of Nigeria conducted mass campaigns with the type A vaccine in all states at risk, including Kebbi State. Still, the risk of other types of Neisseria meningitides persists, as evidenced by the current Nm C outbreak. The disease can be cured with antibiotics and prevented with vaccines.
Meanwhile, a recent World Health Organization Ranking of the World Health Systems indicates that Nigeria was ranked 187 out of 190 countries with appalling health systems.
According to UNICEF Nigeria, every single day, Nigeria loses about 2,300 under-five year olds and 145 women of childbearing age, making it the second largest contributor to the under–five and maternal mortality rate in the world.
A study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the influential British journal ranked Nigeria as the worst place for a baby to be born in 2013.
WHO does not recommend any travel or trade restriction to Nigeria based on the current information available on the outbreak of meningitis.
Executive Director National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Ado Gana Muhammad, said the country has not recorded any major outbreak of meningitis since 2012 because of the introduction of MenAfriVac vaccine in December 2011.
Nigeria in 2011 with support from the Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative (GAVI) introduced MenAfriVac vaccine with the promise to prevent more than 150,000 deaths by 2015 as well as avoid significant disability and have considerable economic benefits.
Nigeria belongs to the ‘meningitis belt’ stretching from Senegal to Ethiopia. The “meningitis belt” is a region of 25 sub-Saharan countries, with a total population of about 500 million people.
Muhammad said: “In December 2011 we introduced MenAfricVac. It tackles and prevents outbreaks. Since 2012 we have not had any major outbreak of Meningitis A. In 2011 we immunized 7.4 million eligible Nigerians, in 2012 we vaccinated another 7.5 million and in 2013 yet another 7.8 million. Because of this, no major outbreak of meningitis has been experienced.
“The vaccination offers minimum of 10 years protection to maximum of life long protection. As far as one receives the shot, he or she could be protected for life.”
Nigeria recorded the worst epidemic of meningitis in 1996 with about 12,000 deaths.
According to a study published in Transactions of Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, “a particularly severe epidemic of meningococcal meningitis (cerebrospinal meningitis, CSM) occurred in Nigeria between January and June 1996. There were 109,580 recorded cases and 11,717 deaths, giving a case fatality rate of 10.7 per cent overall. This is the most serious epidemic of CSM ever recorded in Nigeria, and may be the largest in Africa this century.”
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