World Meningitis Day: Not less than 50 deaths in Nigeria, 15 states affected, in 2019

AS today marks the World Meningitis Day, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is remembering the disease that has resulted in the death of not less than 50 Nigerians in 2019.

April 24 of every year is dedicated to raising awareness about Meningitis—dreadful but preventable disease. This year theme ‘Life After Meningitis’ is focusing on the after-effects of the disease.

With this, according to a statement on the NCDC website, the agency sought to increase awareness on the signs, symptoms and the devastating after-effects that it could have. It also called for awareness on the extreme importance of early diagnosis and treatment, and the crucial need to support Meningitis survivors and their families.

Meningitis cases have been found to occur through the year with an observed increase during the dry season in Nigeria, according to the statement.

While the disease is highly contagious, it could kill within 24 hours. Though young children, infants, adolescents and older people are those at high risk, it could affect anyone with major risk factors being overcrowding and poor ventilation.

“Globally, Meningitis affects about 2.8 million people each year,’ part of the statement read. “This disease remains a major public health challenge affecting countries in the African meningitis belt, where Nigeria falls.”

NCDC noted that “15 States are currently affected in the country” so far in 2019.

And according to a meningitis weekly bulletin by the World Health Organisation,  the disease has resulted in the death of 50 people between the first week of 2019 to the 13th week. It included that 771 cases of ‘cerebrospinal’ meningitis were reported in the country between January and end of March.

A vaccine called MenAfriVac is on the ground for children between nine months and 29 years of age for the prevention against the disease. However, the WHO in the 13th-week bulletin for this year indicated that  Nigeria is among the countries partially vaccinated with MenAfriVac. That is, not the entire population has been vaccinated.

Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes, known as meninges, that protect the brain and spinal cord from infection and direct physical injury. The infection of the meninges by microorganisms such as bacteria or viruses results in the condition known as Meningitis, a very serious infection that can lead to death if left untreated.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 10 to 15 per cent of a type of the disease called ‘meningococcal meningitis’  will suffer from complications, including mental disorders, deafness, palsies and seizures. Also, survivors could suffer disabilities resulting from damages to the nervous system, including hearing loss, learning and behavioural difficulties. Other complications include loss of sight, limb, and organ damage.

Thus, due to the ravage result of the disease, the NCDC said raising the awareness of Meningitis and its after-effects are therefore very vital.

It called on all stakeholders – policy makers, leaders, communities and individuals – to join in raising awareness on Meningitis in Nigeria.

    “We all have a collective responsibility to address this public health challenge. As the agency with the mandate to protect the health of Nigerians, NCDC works closely with the Federal Ministry of Health, the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), other relevant agencies and partners to sensitise Nigerians on the disease and coordinate response nationally in the event of an outbreak,” Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director-General of NCDC said in the statement.

    The disease control agency said that the disease could be prevented by avoiding overcrowded places and ensuring adequate ventilation in homes. It also encouraged the covering of noses and mouths with a disposable tissue when sneezing, coughing, or blowing the nose. And also to promptly dispose of the used tissues into a waste bin.

    The agency urged Nigerians to form the habit of washing hands frequently with soap under running water, especially after coughing or sneezing. “Early presentation to a health facility and treatment increases chances of survival, so visiting the health facility immediately symptoms is extremely crucial,” the statement read in part.

    NCDC advised all health workers to practice standard precautions at all times – wear gloves while handling patients or providing care to an ill relative.

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