The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC in a press release has called on all stake holders, policy makers, communities and individuals to join in raising awareness on Meningitis in Nigeria as we observe the World Meningitis Day which is held on the 24th of April every year to raise awareness about the dreadful but preventable disease.
This year’s theme ‘Life After Meningitis’ aims to highlight the courage and bravery of meningitis survivors and their families in overcoming the challenges that they face on a daily basis, and the need to support them.
Meningitis can be caused by several microbes, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. Of these, bacterial meningitis is the most common in Nigeria. Bacterial Meningitis is of significant public health importance because It has a high morbidity and mortality rate, it can be epidemic-prone depending on the type of bacteria, and it is both treatable and preventable.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) the symptoms of Meningitis include sudden high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, sensitivity to light (photophobia), difficulty concentrating, drowsiness, and convulsions. It is transmitted through tiny droplets of respiratory secretions from an infected person through coughing, sneezing, touching contaminated surfaces.
In a statement made by Dr. ChikweIhekweazu, Director-General, NCDC, he said, “We all have a collective responsibility to address this public health challenge. As the agency with the mandate to protect the health of Nigerians, NCDC works closely with the Federal Ministry of Health, the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), other relevant agencies and partners to sensitise Nigerians on the disease and coordinate response nationally in the event of an outbreak.”
In 1996, ‘N. meningitidissero-group A’ killed 11,717 of the 109,580 recorded cases in Nigeria, with subsequent epidemics in 2003, 2008, and 2009. Sequential outbreaks of ‘sero-group C’ were observed in 2013 and 2014 in northwestern Nigeria, followed by what was possibly the largest global ‘sero-group C’ epidemic ever reported with 14,518 suspected cases between December 13, 2016, and June 15, 2017.
In the 2017/2018 Meningitis outbreak season, about 3467 suspected cases were reported in Nigeria with 303 deaths. As at 19th of April 2019, 760 suspected Meningitis cases have been reported with 58 deaths in the 2018/2019 outbreak season.
Meningitis can be prevented by avoiding overcrowded places and ensuring adequate ventilation in the home, covering the nose and mouth with a disposable tissue when sneezing, coughing, or blowing the nose and disposing used tissues promptly into a waste bin.
Form the habit of washing hands frequently with soap under running water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Early presentation to a health facility and treatment increases chances of survival, so visiting the health facility immediately symptoms is extremely crucial. All health workers are advised to practice standard precautions at all times – wear gloves while handling patients or providing care to an ill relative.