Nigeria is on a red alert as the current epidemic of meningitis that started in December 2016 has killed no fewer than 211 Nigerians and affected 1,407.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), yesterday, in a publication on its website on “Meningococcal disease – Nigeria: Disease outbreak news” noted that a case fatality rate of 15 per cent has been reported from 40 local government areas (LGAs) in five states of Nigeria since December 2016.
According to the apex United Nations (UN) health agency, Zamfara, Katsina and Sokoto account for 89 per cent of these cases.
The WHO added that the most affected age group is five to 14 years old and they are responsible for about half of reported cases. Both sexes are almost equally affected.
There are heightened concerns because Nigeria had recorded its most serious epidemic of meningococcal meningitis (cerebrospinal meningitis, CSM) ever 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. It took over three months and the combined efforts of a National Task Force set up by the Federal Ministry of Health, the WHO, United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Médecins Sans Frontières, the International Red Cross and several other non-governmental organizations to bring the epidemic under control.
Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial form of meningitis, a serious infection of the meninges that affects the brain membrane. It can cause severe brain damage and is fatal in 50 per cent of cases if untreated.
Nigeria is in the extended meningitis belt of sub-Saharan Africa, which stretches from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east (26 countries), and has the highest rates of the disease.
WHO and partners including National Primary health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), UNICEF, Nigeria Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme, eHealth Africa, Médecins Sans Frontières, Rotary International, and Nigeria Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) are providing support to this outbreak.
To address the situation, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, told The Guardian: “Prior to the beginning of the dry season, we prepositioned medical supplies including drugs and personal protective equipment to all 36 states of the country including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
And to forestall any possible outbreak of meningitis, Kogi State is being proactive through sensitization and surveillance.
Special Adviser to the governor on Health Matters, Dr. Ahmed Attah, yesterday said measures were being put in place to prevent any occurrence of cerebrospinal meningitis in the state.
He said the Ministry of Health was working closely with the public health department and the Primary Health Care Development Agency to sensitise the public on the emergency nature of the disease.
Meanwhile, for the first time this year, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Administration has recorded the death of four residents as a result of meningitis infection.
The development has not only created undue anxiety among the residents but has also put the administration on its tolls to forestall further outbreak.
Confirming the development yesterday in Abuja, the Executive Secretary, FCT Primary Healthcare Board, Dr. Raymond Mohammed told The Guardian the incident took place at the Durumi in AMAC Local government area of the capital