Nearly 300 people have died in a meningitis outbreak in Nigeria

03 Apr 2017
Nearly 300 people have died in a meningitis outbreak in Nigeria

Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) is alarmed at a rapidly rising outbreak of meningitis in Nigeria.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that, as of 19 March 2017, a total of 1,407 suspected cases of bacterial meningitis and 211 deaths have been reported in five states of Nigeria since December 2016. This is significantly more people affected by the disease compared with the same period in the previous year. Since then the epidemic has accelerated, with health officials reporting around 2000 cases by the end of March.

The most affected age group is 5 to 14 year olds and they account for about half of reported cases. Meningococcal C infection (MenC) is reported to be the most common cause of the disease in this outbreak.

Nigeria is in an area of Africa known as the ‘meningitis belt’ which has annual epidemics of meningitis during the dry season from January to June. In the past epidemics were mainly due to meningococcal A infection (MenA). A successful MenA vaccination programme in countries in the meningitis belt has almost eliminated MenA, however, other types of meningitis are still causing epidemics. WHO and partners have responded to the outbreak and are providing support, including vaccines.

The thoughts and condolences of everyone at Meningitis Research Foundation are with the individuals and families affected by this recent outbreak. Meningitis has particularly catastrophic effects on African households because looking after survivors creates a huge economic burden, and disabling after effects are two and a half times more likely for survivors in Africa compared with those in Europe.

In order to defeat meningitis and septicaemia here in the UK, it needs to be defeated everywhere in the world. MRF is stepping up its work in places affected, such as the meningitis belt.

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