The Federal Government (FG) yesterday confirmed 1,966 cases of Cerebro Spinal Meningitis (CSM) with the outbreak reaching epidemic proportions in five states- Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina and Niger.
World Health Organisation (WHO) earlier in the week reported that the current epidemic of meningitis that started in December 2016 killed no fewer than 211 Nigerians and affected another 1,407.
However, there are heightened concerns that the new outbreaks are caused by new strains of CSM without readily available vaccines. An epidemic of CSM in 1996 killed 11,717 and infected 109,580 with a case fatality rate of 10.7 per cent.
Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, told reporters yesterday that the vaccines that provide protection to Neisseria meningitidis serogroup C (NmC) are not commercially available and need to be acquired through a special process managed by WHO.
Ihekweazu said they now seem to be seeing a phenomenon called “serotype replacement” – an increase in the cases and outbreaks caused by other Nm serogroups such as W, X, and C. “From 2013 to 2016, Nigeria has seen increasing cases of meningitis in adjacent Sokoto and Kebbi states caused by a new strain of N.meningitidis serogroup C (NmC),” he said.
He, however, said NPHCDA is working closely with WHO to ensure that we get access to vaccines needed to respond to the outbreak and prevent further cases.To address the situation and given the size of the outbreak and the number of states affected, Ihekweazu said the Federal Government through NCDC and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) is leading a multi-agency CSM outbreak control team to coordinate the response.
The team includes representatives from the NPHCDA, WHO, UNICEF, United States Centers for Disease Control (USCDC), Médecins Sans Frontières and EHealth Africa.He said NPHCDA is leading a reactive vaccination in Zamfara State, while a similar response is currently being planned in Kebbi and Sokoto states. In addition, he said UNICEF is currently supporting affected states to scale up social mobilisation focusing on grassroots engagement.
Sokoto State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Shehu Balarabe Kakale, confirmed that CSM outbreak in the state has claimed about 31 lives.Dr. Kakale said that the outbreak has been brought under total control by the concerted efforts and intersectoral collaborations of ministries, departments and agencies in the state.
Also, Kano State confirmed 20 fresh cases in eight local government areas and two reported persons with Lassa fever.Commissioner for Health, Dr. Kabiru Ibrahim Getso at a press briefing yesterday noted that the CSM cases were recorded at Dala, Tarauni Municipal, Tudun Wada, Gwale, Bebeji and Ungogo. The two cases of Lassa fever were discovered in Tudun Wada local government area of the state.
Meanwhile, residents of Maiduguri yesterday expressed concern over heat from intense sun being experienced from March-June of every year of hot dry season of Sahel Sahara region.The heat season, according to Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) commences in the second week of March every year.