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Meningitis outbreak kills more than sixty in Nothern Nigeria - 2003-04-04


In Nigeria, more than sixty people are reported to have died of meningitis during the last three months. The disease broke out in bar village, in the Tafawa Balewa local government area of Bauchi State. Health experts say the outbreak of cerbro-spinal meningitis – or c-s-m, is still spreading. C-S-M is a communicable airborne disease that affects the brain and central nervous system. Patients experience stiffness of the neck, severe headaches, vomiting, and drowsiness and confusion. Without treatment, the infected quickly die. The disease is prevalent during the hot, dry season of much of Nigeria’s north – which health experts call part of sub-Saharan Africa’s “meningitis belt.” It stretches from Ethiopia in the east to Senegal in the west. Community spokesman Mallam Wakili says the deaths from the outbreak of meningitis are pathetic – and called for more resources to help fight the spread of the disease in Bauchi. “I am appealing on behalf of the community to the state and federal government to give more medical attention and support to the people of the village as the little assistance given by the local government council is not enough to control the spread of the disease, people are taken to hospital on daily basis while some are lucky to survive, others are not that fortunate.”

Alhaji Aminu Abubakar is the Deputy Director of Disease Control in Bauchi State’s Ministry of Health. He confirms the report but says the C-S-M outbreak in Bar village is an exception, and government is doing everything it can to control the spread of the illness. “The state government is providing the required drugs, treatment both treatment and preventive drugs. Also ….they have given us the required support to carry out laboratory analysis. In addition to this the state government has directed that all the local governments to procure a reasonable quantity of CSM vaccines for effective mass vaccination of the communities. We noted sporadic cases of measles in some of the local governments. For this also, the state Ministry of Health --in conjunction with the National Programme on Immunization -- has embarked on a mass vaccination against measles which is just to curtail the situation. This has been the plan in every season in Bauchi State.” He says measles – like meningitis – is an airborne disease and is spread in similar ways. Meningitis is spread by coming into contact with respiratory fluid of an infected person. For example, an infected person may transmit it by coughing or kissing. A handshake may spread the virus from one person to another. Health experts say that in institutional settings, the disease can be curbed by washing objects and surfaces with a diluted bleach solution – such as one capful of a chlorine bleach added to one gallon of water. And, on a personal level, one can contain exposure by limiting contact with an infected person or washing one’s hands after coming in contact with someone who has the disease.

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