Nigerian citizens have been cautioned by the Federal government about the heightened risk of Cerebrospinal Meningitis (CSM), during the dry season, characterized by dusty winds and cold nights. In 2023 alone, a devastating 190 lives were tragically claimed by this disease. This caution is particularly vital because the prevailing weather conditions give rise to frequent upper respiratory tract infections, thus increasing the likelihood of infection, especially in crowded and poorly ventilated spaces. During the 2022/2023 period, the occurrence of CSM in Nigeria became a matter of concern, with a recorded count of 2,765 suspected cases, 303 confirmed cases and 190 deaths.
Ifedayo Adetifa, the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), mentioned that the presence of these cases extended to 30 States, as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), encompassing 140 Local Government Areas (LGAs). As per his statement, CSM finds its greatest stronghold within Nigeria’s Meningitis Belt, spanning across all 19 states in the Northern region plus the FCT. Additionally, certain southern states like Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Ekiti, Ogun, Ondo, and Osun also fall under its influence.
CSM has continued to be a pressing health concern.
In a recently released public health advisory, Adetifa provided reassurance that the government is actively engaged in endeavors to prevent, identify, and respond to cases of the disease. He stated that even with notable advancements in surveillance, diagnostics, and vaccination within the country, CSM has continued to be a pressing health concern. Every year, there are outbreaks of this disease in states with high burdens, posing difficulties for individuals, healthcare systems, economies, and communities as a whole.
To address CSM in Nigeria, the NCDC has taken multiple steps, in conjunction with government agencies and associates via the CSM TWG, to guarantee improved alignment, cooperation, and information exchange. In addition to various preventative measures, all State Governments and public health authorities were duly informed about the increased probability of a CSM outbreak at the onset of the season. They were also made aware of the necessity to gather resources to adequately prepare for and respond to such an event. Moreover, the regular meetings of the National multi-sectoral CSM TWG were promptly notified to effectively organize preventive and preparedness endeavors.
Every individual needs to be appropriately vaccinated.
Among the implemented measures are routine communication with states facing significant burdens in order to gather information on their current situation, advancements, and difficulties. Adetifa pointed out that it is important to ensure that every individual is appropriately vaccinated in order to safeguard against meningitis, while also urging caution in maintaining distance from confirmed cases of CSM, even if they are relatives. The NCDC leader also cautioned against the harmful effects of smoking and overcrowding in homes, and also highlighted the importance of adopting respiratory etiquette while coughing or sneezing. He discourages practices that lead to indoor air pollution, such as cooking over open flames indoors.
He encouraged the adoption of proper personal and hand cleanliness habits through regular handwashing with soap and running water, or the use of hand sanitizers when needed. Also, he advised individuals to consistently upkeep their environment. If any of the aforementioned symptoms of CSM were detected, he urged people to promptly visit the nearest healthcare facility or contact the toll-free hotline of the State Ministry of Health. Adetifa urges the refraining from self-medication to prevent the rise of antimicrobial resistance and ensure accurate diagnosis and timely treatment
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Healthcare workers were strongly advised by the advisory to implement customary infection prevention and control techniques. They were encouraged to wear essential personal protective gear, such as gloves, when attending to patients. It is important to highlight that Meningitis develops as a result of sudden inflammations affecting the protective layers around the brain and spinal cord. The disease can be transmitted through direct contact with the affected, involving the exchange of respiratory droplets along with extended and unrestricted interaction with an infected person, among various other means.