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NIGERIA: Meningitis Epidemic: Death toll rises to 328 as health minister urges Nigerians to remain calm

April 2017 Naij; Prof Isaac Adewole, the honourable minister of health, has assured Nigerians that the Federal Ministry of Health under his purview would nip the outbreak of meningitis ravaging some states in the bud.

He made this statement after his ministry issued public advisory warning to Nigerians after 328 deaths associated with Meningitis have been recorded since November 2016 when he spoke extensively on efforts deployed so far to curtail the further spread of the epidemic.

He said: “We have started working with all the affected states in specific areas of collaboration on massive awareness and sensitization, laboratory investigation and analysis, proper documentation and disease surveillance techniques through the National Centre for Disease Control and National Primary Health Care Development Authority (NPHCDA) who have been of tremendous support since the outbreak. We are in constant discussion with World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, E-health Africa and other international health agencies for supplies of vaccines and injections.
“Through our initiatives, we have secured 500,000 doses of the meningococcal vaccines from WHO which will be used in Zamfara and Katsina states with an additional 800,000 units from the British government. By next Tuesday, there will be a meeting with the International Review Group of The World Health Organization (WHO) where request for additional vaccines shall be approved, as part of practical and medically certified efforts to stem this ugly incidence.
“Even with the tunnels of accomplishment made, we are not relenting, as we have been assured of millions of vaccine doses through other notable and international donor agencies. Unfortunately, Nigeria had always been bedevilled with the stereotype A in years past but this new strain of the bacterial disease, Meningitis Stereotype C which the vaccine is not commercially available in required quantities and can only be shipped to the country by WHO only if laboratory investigation confirms the existence of the strain type C.”
He added: “Our ongoing spirited effort is geared to upscale through nationwide immunisation campaign while navigating the menace using a combination vaccine by conducting active case finding, strengthening surveillance, case detection, verification and communication management, performing lumbar puncture of suspect cases in a well coordinated atmosphere under NCDC. Our partners are already re-training physicians on the effective collection of cerebrospinal fluid for diagnosis.
“We are equally advocating for prompt diagnosis and have issued directive to all Federal medical facilities and PHCs to treat all cases of meningitis free of charge. All Nigerians especially residents of Katsina, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Niger, Zamfara and Jigawa states are advised to seek early attention when discomforted with symptoms of Cerebro Spinal Meningitis (CSM) and avoid clogging together in unventilated and over-crowded rooms.”
A press statement signed by Boade Akinola, Director Media and Public Relations released on Friday, March 31, said the current outbreak of Cerebro Spinal Meningitis (CSM), has spread across the country, mostly affecting states in the part of Nigeria which fall within the African Meningitis Belt. The situation report from the ministry as at Friday, March 31, show that 90 local government areas in 16 states of the federation have so far been affected including Zamfara, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Nasarawa, Jigawa, FCT, Gombe, Taraba, Yobe, Osun, Cross Rivers, Lagos and Plateau. The epidemic is not unique to Nigeria, the ministry said, with other neighbouring West African countries like Niger, Chad, Cameroun, Togo and Burkina Faso are facing similar outbreak. According to statistics from the federal health ministry, 2524 people have been affected across the states, 131 samples confirmed in the laboratory with majority as meningitides type C, and 328 deaths recorded so far.
The outbreak started in Zamfara state in November, 2016.‎ The ministry has, however, advised Nigerians to remain calm as the disease is preventable and curable if presented early, Premium Times reports.
“We advise Nigerians to continue abiding by health advice which will be issued periodically as feed back of the situation will be given to the public”, it stated.

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