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Meningitis: 33 dead in Niger, Sokoto to immunise 2m, WHO provides vaccine

Thirty-three people have died from the Cerebrol Spinal Meningitis in Niger State out of the 116 suspected cases recorded, an official disclosed to the News Agency of Nigeria on Friday, April 14, 2017.

Dr. Wondimagegnehu Alemu, the WHO Country Representative to Nigeria

Executive Director of the state Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. Yahaya Na’uzo, said nine persons died from the type C meningitis, while the remaining 24 died of the types A and B since the outbreak of the disease.

Na’uzo said the disease is being contained in Magama, Agwara, Rijau, Kontagora Local Government Areas (LGAs).

According to him, the suspected cases in Suleja and Paiko were persons on transit from Sokoto State.

He explained that after the first fatality, the state embarked on sensitisation and awareness campaign to educate the people on preventive measures.

Na’uzo said: “We now have fewer cases reported per day because communities have been sensitised to report to the nearest hospital as soon as they suspect any case of meningitis.

“People have been educated to quickly report to the nearest hospital once they experience symptoms such as fever, vomiting and stiffness of the neck.

“With this, more people have been coming and the situation has stabilised as no more high report of confirmed cases.”
Na’uzo said vaccination would commence immediately the state receives the Type C meningitis vaccines from international communities.

Similarly, the Sokoto State Government says plans have reached an advanced stage to immunise two million people against Cerebro Spinal Meningitis across the 23 LGAs of the state.

Commissioner for Health, Dr. Balarabe Kakale, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Sokoto on Friday.

Kakale said the exercise would cover mostly persons between the ages of one to 30.

Kakale said: “We have already received 20,000 doses of the type C strain of CSM from the Federal Government, out of the initial request of 800,000 doses we made.

“We are expecting more consignments of the vaccines and we will soon commence the statewide vaccination.”

Kakale stated the World Health Organisation (WHO) would train the vaccinators to ensure the exercise was error-free.

He said: “WHO provided the vaccines to the Federal Government, while the Federal Government distributed them to the states, including Sokoto State.

“The organisation will therefore train the vaccinators for them to conduct the exercise in line with the risk assessment tools.”

The commissioner, however, noted that the meningitis epidemic had been brought under control across the state.

Kakale further said a referral centre had been established by the state government at the Murtala General Hospital, Sokoto.

According to him, the centre is being manned jointly by medical personnel deployed by the state government and Medicines Sans Frontiers.

In a related development, the WHO has disclosed that Nigeria has received 500,000 doses of meningitis C containing vaccine to combat the epidemic in the country.

The doses were sent by the International Coordinating Group (ICG) on Vaccine Provision, an organisation that coordinates the provision of vaccine during outbreak emergencies.

Dr. Wondimagegnehu Alemu, the WHO Country Representative to Nigeria, said this in a statement in Abuja on Friday.

Alemu said the vaccines, funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, have been administered in Zamfara and Katsina states, where the disease was most endemic.

Alemu said an additional 820,000 doses of the meningitis C conjugate vaccine donated by the UK government to WHO was currently being sent to Nigeria.

He said that, in the past week, the ICG also sent 341,000 doses of the meningitis C-containing vaccine to Niger Republic.

He said this was because over 1,300 suspected cases of the disease had been found in the region particularly in districts that border with Nigeria and in the Niamey region of the country.

Alemu said: “A vaccination campaign is underway in Nigeria to contain an outbreak of meningitis C, a strain of meningitis which first emerged in the country in 2013.

“In 2013, the outbreak was initially limited to a few areas in Kebbi and Sokoto States. However, in 2015, more than 2,500 cases of the disease have been reported across 3 states in the country.

“Since the beginning of this year, the country has reported 4,637 suspected cases and 489 deaths across five states.

“WHO’s Country Office in Nigeria, including a number of field offices, have been supporting the government since the meningitis outbreak began.

“In addition to improving the care of the sick, we are focusing on ensuring accurate information about the spread of the outbreak is available as quickly as possible to help us make the most effective use of vaccines.”

Alemu said the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control with support from WHO, the US Centre for Disease Control, UNICEF and other partners were leading the response to the ongoing outbreak.

He said these organisations were also carrying out intensified surveillance, capacity building for case management and risk communication.

Alemu said in addition to the use of vaccinations to prevent the transmission of meningitis, 20,000 vials of antibiotics have been sent by the ICG to treat people who had the disease in Nigeria.

He said most vaccines currently being used for meningitis C outbreaks in Africa were polysaccharide vaccines, adding that they were in short supply as they were being phased out in other parts of the world.

He said: “The more effective and long-lasting conjugate vaccines, however, are not readily accessible for outbreak response in the region. The ICG global emergency stockpile currently has approximately 1.2 million doses of meningitis C-containing vaccines left.

“The very limited supply of vaccines to control outbreaks of meningitis C can affect our ability to control these epidemics.

“In the long term, the accelerated development of affordable and effective conjugate vaccines to cover all epidemic types of meningitis is a high priority for WHO and partners.”

Alemu noted that in the past, Nigeria had suffered large-scale outbreaks of meningitis A stating that in 2009, such an outbreak in the country caused over 55, 000 cases with close to 2,500 deaths.

He, however, said that preventive mass vaccination campaigns supported by Gavi and partners have provided high and long-term protection against the bacteria.

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