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Ethiopian Officials Battling Meningitis Outbreak

Health officials in Ethiopia are working to contain a meningitis outbreak that began almost two months ago.

The malaria and emergency health officer for the U.N. children's agency, Rory Nefdt, tells VOA 40 people have died and at least 431 have been infected by meningitis in Ethiopia.

Mr. Nefdt says two areas have been hit particularly hard by the outbreak. One of those areas borders Sudan. He says it is uncertain whether or not the disease will spread into Sudan.

"I do not think anybody knows for sure what the spread is going to be," he said. "Meningitis tends to not spread out like measles. You often get it appearing in isolated patches often quite far apart. It's not really that predictable."

Mr. Nefdt says Ethiopian health authorities, with technical support from the United Nations, have started a vaccination campaign and are bringing the outbreak under control. He says time will tell whether the situation will stabilize or worsen.

Ethiopia's meningitis outbreak is one of several diseases plaguing the continent. Kenya is recovering from a typhoid epidemic. The Marburg virus rages in Angola, while officials are battling polio in Nigeria and Sudan.