Thursday, January 31, 2008

West African meningitis update

From the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which predictably sounds much more helpful in French: Bureau de la Coordination des Affaires Humanitaires.

(I don’t have a link because it was emailed to me. Hat tip: Julianna.)

A worrisome increase in cases of meningitis has been reported in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria since the end of 2007. Several suspected cases of the disease have also been reported in other countries of the region. In Burkina Faso alone, some 297 cases, of which 52 were fatal, have been recorded within the first two weeks of January 2008.

Some eighteen countries of the Sub-Saharan Africa, extending from western Senegal to eastern Ethiopia, are particularly prone to epidemics of meningococcal meningitis, especially during the dry season. The meningococcal meningitis is the only form of bacterial meningitis which can evolve into an epidemic. Although infants are, in general, the group the most vulnerable to the disease, adolescents and young adults can also contract it when an epidemic strikes.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has set emergency and epidemic thresholds at 5 cases per every 100,000 inhabitants and 10 cases per every 100,000 inhabitants per week within one health district respectively.

In 2007, West Africa was severely affected by an outbreak of respectively which resulted in deaths of some 2,000 people in 9 countries: Benin, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Togo and Burkina Faso, where 75 % of fatal cases were recorded.

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