Thursday , December 14 2017

Health: Why Meningitis Epidemic May Get Worse in Nigeria

Meningitis Epidemic
Meningitis Epidemic

The fear that more Nigerians may die from the ongoing epidemic of Cerebro Spinal Meningitis (CSM) has become more real as the country does not have enough vaccine doses to deal with the deadly meningitis outbreak, and the drugs are too expensive at the cost of $50 (N18, 000) per dose.

The Guardian reliably gathered that to prevent the country having a worse epidemic compared to an epidemic of Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A (NmA) strain of CSM in 1996 that killed 11,717 and infected 109,580 with a case fatality rate of 10.7 per cent, the country needs to vaccinate no fewer than 22 million Nigerians aged between one and 29 years.

At what cost? 22 million persons at the cost of $50 per dose of the vaccine for Neisseria meningitides serogroup C, which is N396b. This is higher than proposed budgetary allocation for health in the 2017 national budget, which is N304b.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, told The Guardian that contrary to reports on Saturday dailies, there is no outbreak of CSM in Imo State. Ihekweazu said there is a huge difference between suspected case and confirmed case. “I can tell you categorically that there is no case of meningitis in Imo State,” he said.

Ihekweazu said the apparent increase in number of cases is as a result of intensified case-finding going on in the affected states, even as he said the meningitis Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) has deployed personnel to support response activities in the five most affected States.

The NCDC boss, however, confirmed that a total of 3,959 suspected cases with 438 deaths recorded in 106 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in 19 states. He said Zamfara, Katsina, Kebbi and Sokoto states in the Northwest zone, and Niger State in the North-Central zone account for about 95 per cent of the cases reported.

Ihekweazu said the most affected age group is five-14 years and accounts for 52 per cent of cases.A breakdown of the latest figures published by NCDC showed that the epidemic has spread to Delta, Kogi and Oyo, but with no casualties. Delta recorded two cases in two LGAs, but no death; Oyo had two cases from one LGA and no death while Kogi had only one case in one LGA and no death.

However, the number of cases and deaths increased in the other 16 states. In Zamfara the number of cases increased from 1,846 in 14 LGAs to 2,337 in 14 LGAs, while the number of deaths also increased from 216 to 262. In Sokoto, the cases rose from 662 to 1,046, and deaths from 41 to 61, while the LGAs increased from 17 to 18. In Katsina it was from 211 cases to 228, 46 deaths to 48 and the restricted in 14 LGAs. The increase in Kebbi was also significant, from 69 to 72 cases, but the number of deaths remained 11 and within 13 LGAs.

Ihekweazu said the ongoing response to the outbreak, which started on Thursday April 6 in the eight most affected Local Government Areas in Zamfara State, and will continue until April 9, 2017. “The campaign targets 300,000 persons aged two – 29 years. More campaigns are planned in other states in the near future,” he said.

The NCDC boss said reports from the field indicate early progress in the vaccination exercise. He said to support effective outbreak response coordination across the entire country, the Minister of Health mandated the NCDC to activate an Emergency Operations Centre which has swung into action.

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