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Meningitis outbreak causes 961 cases

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By Usman Oladimeji

The disease continues to pose a threat to Nigeria's public health.

As one of the countries within the Meningitis Belt, Nigeria has recorded severe epidemic outbreaks in the past. Until recently these outbreaks were caused mostly by Neisseria meningitides serogroup A (NmA). These outbreaks occur in the dry season, due to its low humidity and dusty conditions, and usually end with the onset of the rainy season. According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), thus far in 2022, Nigeria has recorded, 961 cases of suspected CSM, and 56 deaths have been reported throughout 32 states and the Federal Capital Territory across 159 Local Government Areas affected.

Cerebrospinal Meningitis (CSM) is an epidemic-prone disease with cases reported all year round in Nigeria. The highest burden occurs in the “Meningitis Belt” of Africa south of the Sahara Desert. In Nigeria, the belt includes all 19 northern states, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and some Southern States. The diseases can be transmitted through physical contact with infected persons. Most common symptoms of Meningitis’ are a stiff neck, high fever, sensitivity to light, disorientation, headaches, and vomiting. Meningitis is always a medical emergency and must be treated as such. It is curable if discovered in the early stage.

The global community set out plans to counter the disease.

The disease remains a major public health problem in several countries around the globe. Despite significant progress in surveillance, diagnostic capacity, and vaccine development in recent years, it has been occurring with frequent epidemics posing a challenge to people, health systems, economies and societies. Owing to these, NCDC and Prevention has joined the global roadmap to eliminate meningitis by 2030. On the worldwide strategy for Defeating Meningitis by 2030 has been endorsed by the World Health Assembly.

In Nigeria, where meningitis is still an issue to public health, despite widespread efforts to combat it, the alignment and local translation of this road plan appears to be paramount to the country. To achieve the goal of “Towards a world free of meningitis” by the year 2030, this plan lays out three main objectives: the complete eradication of bacterial meningitis epidemics; the reduction of cases of vaccine-preventable bacterial meningitis by 50% and deaths by 70%; and decrease in impairment and enhancement of quality of life after any causes of meningitis infection

NCDC has developed technical bodies to counter outbreaks.

To improve readiness, detection, and response to meningitis outbreaks, the NCDC continues to collaborate with the affected states to enhance surveillance in awareness of the underreporting of cases, and to implement strategic preventative and control initiatives. This is being done with the support of partners. The NCDC has an active National CSM Technical Working Group that has worked together with partners and other stakeholders to establish meningitis response guidelines, checklists and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).

Furthermore, a National CSM Epidemic Preparedness & Response strategy has also been developed with the support of partners. Currently, the nation has a network of 29 public labs capable of diagnosing CSM across the country. For the purpose of meningitis prevention and control, the NCDC continues to provide technical support for state planning and capacity development to states. To accomplish the goal of a “meningitis-free world”, Nigerians and political leaders at all levels of government must be fully committed.

NCDC urges government and the citizens’ inclusion.

In order to ensure that no one is left behind in the fight against meningitis, the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) continues its close collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health, its sister agency the Nigeria Primary Health Care Development Agency, and other partners. Additionally, the institution is making significant efforts to improve the monitoring of subnational meningitis, particularly in areas that have a high incidence rate of cases.

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