Health officers battle witchcraft belief as deaths from meningitis in Sokoto rises to 21

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According to the Sokoto State Commissioner for Health, Balarabe Kakale, the number of deaths from the Cerebrospinal meningitis epidemic in Sokoto State has risen to 21. The deaths were recorded in 7 local government areas of the state namely Kebbe, Bodinga, Rabah, Wamakko, Gada, Dange/Shuni  and Tureta.

The Commissioner for Health yesterday in Sokoto expressed great sadness that the belief in witchcraft was making the fight against meningitis difficult. Families were refusing to bring suspected cases to the hospital attributing the illness to witchcraft. He said that the state government had, since last Monday, organized no fewer than 15 medical teams made up of over 150 medical personnel. These teams were strategically positioned across the 23 local government areas of the state and were fully equipped with ambulances and provided with free drugs and medicament.

Balarabe went ahead to state that emergency response teams had also been deployed by the state government that went around conducting house-to-house search, definition and management, at home and hospitals. No fewer than 330 mixed cases of severe malaria and meningitis had been treated across the seven most affected local governments.

He revealed that out of the 330 cases, 40 were confirmed in the laboratories to be cases of meningitis, out of which 14 deaths were recorded and these deaths excluded the 7 earlier recorded in parts of Gada local government. He further noted that thousands of other cases were treated at primary health centres in the local governments. He also added that there were some cases from Koko  in Kebbi  state which worsened the epidemic.

The Commissioner reiterated that it was quite saddening that the people of the state attributed the disease to witchcraft as suspected cases with obvious symptoms of the disease like vomiting, high fever, headache and stiffness of the neck were not brought to the health facilities.
The Commissioner advised people of the state to disregard rumours of witchcraft and take all suspected cases of the disease to hospitals on time. He said that keeping suspected affected persons at home will only make the disease worse and cause transmission to other members of the family. “Residents should reduce the number of persons that take care of confirmed meningitis patients, avoid sleeping in overcrowded rooms and also ensure personal and environmental hygiene”, he said.

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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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