IT IS ONE of the worst outbreaks
of cerebra spinal meningitis in
Nigeria. By late last week, the
death toll from the scourge
ravaging Africa’s most populous
nation was put at close to 745.
According to the report, the
ongoing meningitis epidemic has
claimed 745 lives as at Monday,
the Nigeria Centre for Disease
Control said.That’s more than 300
additional deaths in the last two
weeks.Some 8,057 cases suspected
to be meningitis have been reported
across the country.
Of the 8,057 cases, 7,519 have
occurred in the five states that
have reached outbreak levels for
Cerebrospinal Meningitis ,CSM,
serotype C–Zamfara, Sokoto,
Katsina, Kebbi and Niger, according
to NCDC.Enhanced surveillance in
several states in partnership with
NCDC and partners has helped
find and report more cases.The
National Primary Health Care
Development Agency ,NPHCDA,
coordinated mass vaccination
for 2-29-year-olds in Katsina and
Zamfara, where the outbreak started.
Similar vaccination was planned
for Sokoto, while distribution of
medicines continued.The incident
manager, Dr John Oladejo, who heads
the centre, said, “We are grateful to
allThe incident manager, Dr John
Oladejo, who heads the centre,
said, “We are grateful to all Rapid
Response Team members, including
government agency and partner staff,
who have remained at their different
field posts, through the Easter period
working on this outbreak response
and control.Two weeks ago, Nigerian
health official was quoted that more
than suspected 489 people had died
during the latest meningitis outbreak
to hit Africa’s most populous nation.
With 16 states and the FCT said to
be affected by the recent outbreak
of meningitis in the country, and
about 500 persons reported to have
lost their lives, it is one of the worst
epidemic in the history of Nigeria.
not many believed it will linger on
and take the lives of hundreds of
people the way it did. But as the day
went by, the deadly and viral nature
of the killer disease became obvious,
claiming almost 500 persons, which
were majorly children. States affected
so far are Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto,
Kebbi, Niger, Nassarawa, Jigawa,
Gombe, Taraba , Yobe, Kano, Osun,
Cross Rivers, Lagos, Plateau and FCT.
The Federal Ministry of Health
,FMOH, and the Nigerian Centre for
Disease Control ,NCDC, reported
that the disease reached an epidemic
status in five of such states, and that
five neighbouring countries within
the Meningitis belt : Niger, Chad,
Cameroon, Togo, and Burkina Faso
which are facing similar outbreaks
.While about 500 people have lost
their lives already in one of the most
devastating meningitis outbreak in
Nigeria, more than 2524 persons,
according to the FMOH and NCDC
were currently being affected, with
majority of the 131 samples collected
already confirmed in the laboratory
to be Neisseria Meningitides type C.
The Director, Media and Public
Relations, FMOH, Mrs. Boade
Akinola said although this was not
the first time or the worst epidemic
ever faced by Nigeria, this round of
the epidemic came with a difference,
as all previous epidemics were
caused by Neisseria Meningitides
type ‘A’; but this year’s own was
recording Neisseria Meningitides
type C in epidemic proportion for the
first time.
“Historically, the worst CSM
epidemics experienced in Nigeria
occurred in 1996 when about
109,580 cases and 11,717 deaths
were recorded, followed by the
one in 2003 with 4,130 cases and
401 deaths, then in 2008 ,9,086
cases and 562 deaths were recorded
while in 2009, 9086 cases and 562
deaths were recorded.
“These historical records and
past experiences influenced health
authorities in to start a large-scale
vaccination programme in response
to the mass outbreak that affected
mostly children.
“As of now, there have been a
total of 4,637 suspected cases out
of which we have had 489 fatalities.
Of these, 207 have been confirmed
in laboratory tests,” Minister of
state for health, Osagie Ehanire told
reporters after cabinet meeting in
Nigeria’s capital of Abuja. Ehanire
said that an ongoing vaccination
campaign is yielding positive
results.
“I can tell you now that we are
beginning to see the plateau, that
is to say the epidemic is no more
rising. It’s beginning to flatten out,”
Ehanire said.
“We cannot tell immediately
how many doses of vaccines we
will need. But we have placed an
order for an additional two million
doses,” Ehanire said.
Meningitis is caused by different
types of bacteria, six of which can
cause epidemics. It is transmitted
between people through coughs
and sneezes, and facilitated by
cramped living conditions and
close contact. The illness causes
acute inflammation of the outer
layers of the brain and spinal cord,
with the most common symptoms
being fever, headache and neck
stiffness. Nigeria lies in the so-called
“meningitis belt” of sub-Saharan
Africa, stretching from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east,
where outbreaks of the disease
are a regular occurrence. A few
days ago, the federal government
announced that it had contained the
meningitis scourge. But days after
it declared that it had contained
the Serotype C strain of Cerebral
Spinal Meningitis, CSM, renowned
Professor of Virology and former
Vice chancellor of Redeemer’s
University, Prof. Oyewale Tomori,
has said Nigeria was not yet out
of the woods.Tomori, who is also
a member of the United State
National Academy of Science, said
the country was still in what he
described as “the thick jungle” of
the epidemic.
Tomori said in an interview that
now that efforts had been made to
identify the type of agent causing
the outbreak, the country must
prepare immediately to stockpile
vaccines and antibiotics in
preparation for possible outbreak
next year.
He said: “How well we succeed
with the current vaccination will,
to a large extent, determine the
magnitude of future outbreaks.
If we cover a substantially large
number of our population with the
vaccine, improve our surveillance
and ensure proper care of cases,
then we may be free of huge
outbreaks in years to come.
According to him: “Knowing our
country, as soon as we take care of
the current outbreak, or the disease
burns itself out, we will pack up
bags and baggage and return to
battling with the common issues of
our national life: non-payment of
salaries, strident whistle blowing
exhuming illegally acquired
millions of naira, pounds and
dollars, and wait for the next
recurring decimation by disease
outbreaks.
“We currently do not have
enough vaccines to cover the
population in the states reporting
the outbreak.”
It is still possible that there may
be cases reported from other states.
Add to that the “wickedness” of
some unscrupulous health workers
who are charging for vaccines that
should be given free.
‘’One good aspect of the disease
is that it is treatable, therefore we
need to get antibiotics to treat and
care for affected cases in different
parts of the country.”
While commending the
government for taking appropriate
steps to contain the outbreak,
Prof. Tomori further cautioned
those in authority over dangerous
statements that might jeopardise
gains already made so far.
Earlier John Oladejo, the incident
manager of the Nigeria Centre for
Disease Control, NCDC, had put
the death toll at 438..
According to him, “As at April
5, 2017, 3,959 suspected cases had
been reported as part of the current
outbreak, of which 181 cases have
been laboratory-confirmed.
He said: “A total of 438 deaths,
11 per cent of all cases, have been
reported from 106 LGAs in 19 states
in the country and outbreak response
and control activities are ongoing in
the State to curtail the outbreak”, he
added.
In Zamfara, the state most affected
by the outbreak of the Cerebro Spinal
Meningitis, residents have been
turning out in large numbers for a
mass vaccination exercise against the
disease.
Mr. Ihekweazu , one of the officials
handling vaccination in the state was
quoted as saying the commitment
of the traditional rulers had been
evident in the state; stating that they
had helped mobilise their community
members for the exercise.
“Indeed, we see an opportunity for
a sustainable initiative which will go
beyond this response.
“Reports from the field indicated
progress in the vaccination exercise.
In Zamfara State, where there was
massive turnout in the target local
government areas.”
To support effective outbreak
response coordination across the
entire country, the Minister of Health,
Isaac Adewole, had mandated the
NCDC to activate an Emergency
Operations Centre which has swung
into action.
The Centre was staffed with
experts from the NCDC, NPCHDA,
the Federal Ministry of Health and
others from the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention,
World Health Organization, UNICEF
and other partner agencies.
The Incident Manager, Mr. Oladejo,
said their work at the EOC was to
put in place a sustainable process for
responding to the current Meningitis
outbreak.
“We are happy to say that this
is truly a partnership focused on
successfully stopping the outbreak.
We will work round the clock to
implement rapid response plans and
deal with emerging issue”.
He also stated that the National
Assembly was aware of the work
of the EOC and the NCDC and had
expressed its support towards the
success of the programme.
Throwing more light on the
disease, Dr John Ogbadu, director,
JEC Hospital, Suleja, Niger
state stated in an interview with
Nigerian Pilot:
“Actually the case at hand is
cerebrospinal meningitis that
is Inflammation of the covering
,meninges, of the brain and spine.
It can be caused by bacteria,
virus,fungus,cancer, etc.”
On the type C which was not
heard of in Nigeria before the recent
outbreak, he said:” the commonest
type in our environment is
meningococcal meningitis caused
by Neisseria Meningitidis bacteria
with serotypes group A, B,C,W,Y.
Over 80%o of previous epidemics
in sub-Saharan Africa was due
to infection by serotype A.The
infection by type C presents the
same way clinically. Since it is rare,
the subclinical immunity is less
hence the severity.”
Dr Ogbadu said the symptoms
include fever,headache, stiff
neck,vomiting, sensitivity to light,
confusion and loss of consciousness.
He said it can treated especially if
treatment commences early.
The medical director outlined
measures that could be taken to
curtail the disease. They include
vaccination; proper hygiene;
and staying in well ventilated
environment.
. Other measures are health
education; epidemic preparedness
inform of surveillance; prevention
as started above early detection
and treatment, and avoiding over
crowded rooms.
MORE FACTS ABOUT
MENIGITIS OUTBREAK IN
NIGERIA
• Total of 2,997 suspected cases
with about 500 deaths were
reported
• Zamfara, Katsina and Sokoto
states account for about 93% of the
cases reported
• A total of 146 positive cases
confirmed by Pastorex and Culture;
Neisseria meningitides serotype C,
being the most common serotype,
accounting for 83% of cases.
• The most affected age group is
5-14
years of age.
• 500,000 doses of the AC-PS
vaccine granted by the International
Coordinating Group on Vaccine
Provision ,ICG, for reactive
vaccination were among the drugs
used in Zamfara .

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