Nigeria: Vaccine Shortage As Meningitis Spreads
By Akor Ojoma, Judd-Leonard Okafor, Ahmed Tahir Ajobe and Rakiya A.Muhammad
Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has reported a “wide outbreak” of cerebrospinal meningitis across 15 states in the country with the death toll reaching 314.
NCDC Technical Assistant, Communication, Dr Lawal Bakare said the recent outbreak is beyond vaccination because it was caused by a new strain of the disease.
Bakare said there was shortage of the vaccine for this particular meningitis strain worldwide now.
He said Nigeria needs more of the vaccines in order to effectively tackle the disease.
NCDC in a statement after a briefing in Abuja yesterday said the outbreak had reached “epidemic proportion in Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina and Niger.”
Cases of the disease first emerged in Zamfara and by March, at least 1,966 people were suspected for CSM.
At least 269 people have died, according to the centre. Five more died in Abuja this week, primary health care officials in the FCT confirmed.
By evening yesterday the death toll in Niger State increased from four to 49 thus raising the national total to 314.
At least 44 cases were confirmed in Zamfara, 32 in Katsina, 19 in Sokoto, 10 in Kebbi, and 49 in Niger.
NCDC’s weekly epidemiological report found 745 suspected CSM cases, 21 of them confirmed in laboratory and 85 deaths from 98 local government areas (in 22 states)-all between the first and 10th week of 2017.
By comparison, the same period last year saw only 218 suspected cases and 11 deaths across 67 local government areas in 20 states.
In light of the size of the outbreak and number of states affected, NCDC said it was leading a multi-agency outbreak control team to coordinate response.
The team includes representatives from the NPHCDA, World Health Organisation, UNICEF, US Centers for Disease Control, Médecins Sans Frontières and EHealth Africa.
NCDC chief executive officer Chikwe Ihekweazu said “We must work collectively to stop this outbreak and prevent outbreaks of this scale in the future.”
“Immunisation is key to the prevention of meningitis,” said Olubunmi Ojo, director of surveillance at NCDC.
Outbreaks are not uncommon. Nigeria has seen some in the past, owing to its presence in the meningitis belt-predominantly caused by Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A (NmA).
These outbreaks occur in the dry season, due to its low humidity and dusty conditions and usually ends with the onset of the rainy season, the NCDC says.
Vaccination campaigns between 2011 and 2014 using meningococcal A conjugate vaccine “virtually eliminated” NmA epidemics.
“We now see an outbreak caused predominantly by Neisseria meningitidis serogroup C (NmC),” said Ojo.
“While reactive vaccination helps to curtail outbreaks, a vaccination campaign against NmC with a long-lasting conjugate vaccine is sorely needed in the region.
Meningitis causes the covering of the brain-or meninges-to swell. It begins with an infection by bacteria or virus.
Meningitis may be carried in the throat, but can overwhelm the body’s defences and spread through the bloodstream to the brain. The reason for this shift is still unclear.
Up to two in every 100 people carry the microorganism in their throat at any given time, but the rate increases in times of epidemics.
The most common symptoms of meningitis are stiff neck, high fever, sensitivity to light, confusion, headaches and vomiting, and anyone with the symptoms above is advised to urgently seek care at the nearest health facility.
Meningitis should always be viewed as a medical emergency.
Daily Trust learnt that the Federal Government has been in touch with state governments to move in with medical officials and logistics.
In Sokoto, the government says it targets 700,000 children and adults for vaccination against Cerebrospinal Meningitis, CSM just as it said over N50million had been expended on drugs, consumables and logistics in the fight against the disease in the state.
Commissioner for Health, Dr Shehu Kakale disclosed this at a press briefing Thursday in Sokoto while giving an update on efforts to mitigate the effects of the disease in the state.
He said with vaccination, they intend to achieve high immunity against any outbreak in coming years.
The Commissioner disclosed that over 500 cases of meningitis had been successfully treated.
In Kano, the state commissioner for health Dr Kabir Ibrahim Getso urged residents to keep vigil and report any suspected case of meningitis and Lassa fever in their areas, to enable government respond on time.
Getso said 20 suspected cases of meningitis with four cases confirmed have been recorded in 8 local government areas of the state, while two deaths were recorded from Lassa fever in Tudun Wada local government areas of the state.
In Jigawa State, one person was reported dead while four others received treated following an infection by Cerebro Spinal Meningitis (CSM) in Jigawa state, the Commissioner of Health, Dr. Abba Zakari has disclosed.
The Commissioner, who spoke through his Permanent secretary Dr. Muhammad A. Kainuwa in Dutse, said the cases were reported from four local government areas of the state.
He added that the infected persons had since been treated and discharged, arguing that the cases discovered had not reached a crisis level that could be described as an outbreak.
Dr. Zakari explained that apart from public enlightment on how to prevent the disease, the state ministry of Health had also embarked on aggressive disease survillence particularly, in the border areas bordering Niger Republic.
“In the last two weeks five people have been infected by meningitis in the state. One out of the victums has been confirmed to have been killed by the disease.
“The disease was discovered in KiriKasamma, Kiyawa, Maigatari and Gwaram local government areas..”
In Kogi State, Special Adviser to the governor on Health Matters, Dr Ahmed Attah, said the government said that proactive measures were being put in place to prevent any occurrence of meningitis in the state.
The Director Medical Services in the Sokoto State Ministry of Health, Dr Abdullahi Jabo underscored the importance of personal and environmental hygiene. “It all boils down to personal hygiene, that is why the government is always enlightening people about environmental sanitation and personal hygiene to curtail the proliferation of the organism that cause this deadly disease. It is very important we observe environmental sanitation, clean our environment because this organism do proliferate during this season.”