Meningitis outbreak: Federal Ministry of Health urges Nigerians to stay calm

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As cases of Cerebro-Spinal Meningitis (CSM) spread across the country, the Federal Ministry of Health has advised the public to stay calm.

This came in a public advisory issued by the Director, Media and Public Relations, Boade Akinola. The advisory was titled “Cerebrospinal Meningitis (CSM) Outbreak in Nigeria” and was made available to Daily Trust yesterday. The Director in the advisory said the public should be calm as the disease is both preventable and curable. The advisory also directed all public secondary and tertiary hospitals to provide free treatment for all cases of Meningitis.

Meningitis is an infection of the meninges, a thin layer of the connective tissue that covers the brain and the spinal cord. It can be caused by bacteria, virus, parasite or fungus. It is of great public health importance because it has high morbidity and fatality rate. It is epidemic prone but however treatable.

According to the Director, although the cumulative number of people and locations affected by the disease had increased, the actual number has started to fall in some states showing a light at the end of the tunnel.
The Director said that as at Friday, 2,524 people were affected in 90 local government areas of 16 states with 328 deaths. The states are Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Nassarawa, Jigawa and the FCT. Others include Gombe, Taraba, Yobe, Kano, Osun, Cross Rivers, Lagos and Plateau. The advisory explained that the epidemic was not the worst ever faced but this was the first time the Neisseria Meningitides type “C” was recorded in epidemic proportion. Previous epidemics were caused by the type “A”.

Speaking on previous cases, Akinola noted that 109,580 cases and 11,717 deaths were recorded in 1996, 4,130 cases and 401 deaths in 2003, 9,086 cases and 562 deaths in 2008 and 9,086 cases and 562 deaths in 2009.

The advisory disclosed that teams had been formed to coordinate all responses while the initial states had commenced Emergency Operation Centres. The advisory also cautioned the public to avoid overcrowding, sleep in well-ventilated places, avoid close and prolonged contact with cases and properly dispose respiratory and throat secretions. It also called for strict observance of hand hygiene and sneezing into elbows, reduce handshakes, kissing, sharing utensils or medical interventions such as mouth resuscitation, vaccinate with relevant sero-type of the meningococcal vaccine and avoid self-medication.

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Joan Obasi is a journalism intern working with HealthNewsNG.com in Lagos, Nigeria. She covers developments in the healthcare sector. She can be reached via joan@healthnewsng.com

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