Niger meningitis cases triple in 2 weeks amid dearth of vaccines
- According to the World Health Organization (WHO) more than 400 people have died from meningitis is Niger in the last two weeks.
- The outbreak is mainly caused by serogroup C, which is not normally prevalent in the region.
- Vaccines for this type of meningitis are in short supply.
Meningococcal meningitis, which affects the thin lining surrounding the brain, is highly fatal, with up to 50% of those infected dying from the virus. While there are ongoing vaccination, as well as efforts to stave back the epidemic with ceftriaxone, a highly potent antibiotic, there continues to be a high rate of meningitis-related deaths during the dry season, whcih runs from December to June, in the area known as the "meningitis belt," which runs from Senegal to Ethiopia.
Between January 1 and May 12, there have been more than 6,000 reported cases of meningitis and 423 deaths. Even worse, during a 2009 outbreak, there were more than 80,000 cases of meningitis. And between 1996 and 1997, 20,000 of the 200,000 people infected with meingitis in the "meningitis belt" died as a result.
Doctors Without Borders is hard at work vaccinating people and trying to hold back the progression of a virus that speads rapidly, especially in urban areas. Although many people have died, their efforts have had a positive impact. The goal is to keep vaccinating aggressively and to keep using ceftriaxone.