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Bracing for the meningitis season

THE Cerebro-Spinal Meningitis, CSM, season is here again. The hot season is a period to be apprehensive because this disease claims many lives almost every year. For instance, between December 2016 when that season’s outbreak started and May 2017, 1,166 deaths were recorded, mostly in the North.

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A statement by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, indicated that during the 22-week duration of the scourge, 14,005 cases were isolated in 23 states and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, with a total of 226 local governments affected. During that year, Zamfara State recorded the highest number of casualties, followed by Sokoto, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi and Yobe States. Zamfara and Katsina alone accounted for 89 per cent of the identified cases. Therefore, the main flashpoint states need to be extra-vigilant once the CSM season opens every year.

The type of CSM which wreaks so much havoc in Nigeria and other West African countries such as Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Ghana is known as Meningococcal bacteria, which can be transmitted through human contact. It causes the swelling of the membrane of the throat and spinal cord. Children between the ages of five and 14 are most vulnerable. During the 2016/2017 outbreak, 6,791 out of the 14,513 identified cases were minors.

Because of the now predictable annual frequency of occurrence, the NCDC had resorted to routine advisories to alert stakeholders to guard against it. To forestall a reoccurrence of the scale of tragedy which trailed the 2016/2017 outbreak, the NCDC in a recent advisory, declared: “This is a wake-up call to all states to be better prepared to respond in event of an outbreak. As such, states are requested to intensify their support for the meningitis season by strengthening active surveillance and notification for meningitis in communities and health facilities using standard case definition.”

The Centre also advised states to procure and pre-position the Ceftriaxone vaccine, intravenous fluids and other medical inputs for immediate case management when they arise. The immediate past outbreak killed so many people because the vaccines were not immediately available. This should not be allowed to happen again, not even in this season of political campaigns.

Children should be vaccinated against CSM and other vaccine-preventable diseases. It is the duty of government to do this, and the United Nations and its relevant organs always stand ready to assist. Therefore there is no excuse for failure to do this.

It is also the duty of governments, in partnership with the media, community-based organisations, traditional and religious leaders to sensitise the people and educate them on steps they can take to prevent or minimise outbreaks, or seek help when they do occur.

We must be on our guard.

 

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