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Meningococcal Meningitis in Africa

07 Jun 2013

From 1 January to 12 May 2013, 9 249 suspected cases of meningitis, including 857 deaths have been reported from 18 of the 19 African countries under enhanced surveillance for meningitis. The number of cases reported so far are the lowest recorded during the epidemic season in the last ten years.

Two outbreaks of the meningococcal disease have been confirmed:

In Guinea an outbreak was reported in Siguiri district, predominantly due to Neisseria meningitidis serogroup W135. A total of 404 suspected cases (38 deaths) were recorded. A reactive vaccination campaign targeting the affected population was conducted by the Ministry of Health from 2-7 May 2013.

In South Sudan an outbreak of Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A was confirmed in Malakal county, in the Upper Nile state. A total of 196 suspected cases (13 deaths) were recorded. A reactive vaccination campaign from 15-24 May 2013, was led by the Ministry of Health of South Sudan with the support of WHO and partners.

Short duration outbreaks of meningitis were reported in Benin (1 district), Burkina Faso (1 district), and Nigeria (3 districts). The predominant serogroup was not confirmed.

The decrease in the number of cases of meningitis reported during the period under review is thought to be due to the progressive introduction of the newly developed Meningococcal A conjugate vaccine in countries of the African Meningitis Belt since 2010.

Advice for Travellers

WHO emphasizes that individuals planning to travel to countries in the African Meningitis Belt obtain vaccine to protect against the four serogroups responsible for the epidemic disease (quadrivalent vaccine ACYW135).

The risk of meningococcal infection increases during the dry season which generally runs from December to June in the meningitis belt.