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Meningitis kills 65 children in Jigawa

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By Abraham Adekunle

Residents lament poor government response as 65 died in 14 LGAs.

Residents and health officials have reported that not less than 65 children have died of what is suspected to be a Meningitis outbreak in 14 local government areas of Jigawa State. They revealed that some of the children who died of the disease complained of fever and numbness in their legs before they died. The village head of Dungundun Community in Sule-Tankarkar Council Area, Alkasim Yakubu, said that 19 children had died of the disease and many others are suffering deformities as a result.

Two octogenarians have died of the disease as well. The village head said that the outbreak was first detected in the community in the middle of May, 2022. He said that the government has abandoned the community since the outbreak was detected. He said the children died within 13 hours of contracting the disease. “There is no functional health facility nearby. We rushed some of them to Danladin Gumel Primary Health care in the neighboring council area,” he said.

The Meningitis virus is considered highly contagious.

Meningitis is a highly contagious infection which operates like the influenza (flu). According to Mayo Clinic, meningitis is an inflammation of the fluid and membranes (meninges) surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Early meningitis symptoms may mimic the flu. Symptoms may develop over several hours or over a few days. Possible signs and symptoms in anyone older than the age of 2 include: sudden high fever, stiff neck, severe headache that seems different from normal, headache with nausea or vomiting, confusion or difficulty concentrating, seizures, sleepiness or difficulty waking, etc.

In newborns, the symptoms include: high fever, constant crying, excessive sleepiness or irritability, difficulty waking from sleep, inactivity or sluggishness, not waking to eat, vomiting, a bulge in the soft spot on top of a baby’s head (fontanel), stiffness in the body and neck, etc. The most common causes of meningitis are viral infections. Others are bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections. The longer an infected person stays without treatment, the greater the risk of complications, which include: hearing loss, loss of memory or memory difficulty, learning disabilities, brain damage, gait problems, seizures, kidney failure, shock, and even death. Survivors of these disease in Jigawa are suffering from many of these deformities while many have died.

Residents narrate their experience with the disease.

Most of the deaths occurred at home due to unavailable and inaccessible healthcare facilities, while children who survived it did with deformities. One of the surviving child, Mamman Rabilu, survived with hearing deformity. Mr Yakubu said that a non-governmental organization, Save the Children International, have been sensitizing locals about environmental and personal hygiene, and also educating the children in the community about the danger of Open Defecation and the importance of hand washing. At Mele community in Gumel Council Area, the head of the community, Yusuf Ahmad, said that at least 21 members of his community have died from the outbreak. He also said that local government health officials have been responding to the outbreak and at least 30 others have recovered from the disease.

He said that they have reported the outbreak to the government and the government is doing its best to educate the locals. “There are about 19 reported deaths including many children and women, but many deaths are unreported in the area,” he said. Ado Kanta, lost two of his children to the outbreak, one at home and the other at hospital, all within a five-day interval. His son, Abdulfatahu, three years old, suddenly felt sick, started vomiting and died minutes later at home. His sister, Sha’awa, also three, was rushed to Danladin Gumel Primary Health Care facility, but she later died at the local council headquarters where they were referred.

Save the Children International are responding to the outbreak.

Save The Children International said it is providing support to the Jigawa State government in its response to the outbreak in the state. The state government have also embarked on sensitization programs through radio jingles and educating the residents on preventive measures. Ibrahim Haruna, an advocacy official, said that the NGO is supporting the training of health workers and provision of drugs and medical consumables across 17 health facilities in the state. The NGO said it is engaging communities among the six most affected LGAs in the state.


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