• Lagos govt alerts residents
By Azoma Chikwe and Fred Itua, Abuja
Acting Director-General of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Emmanuel Odu, has said 22 million people are at risk of a new strain of cerebro-spinal meningitis (CSM) causative agent, Neisseria Meningitides type C, which is slightly different from the causative agent of the seasonal disease, in five states of the Federation.
The states are: Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina and Niger states.
Dr. Odu also added that $1.1 billion is needed to vaccinate the 22 million people at risk in the five states already affected bymeningitis.
The acting NPHCDA DG disclosed this when he briefed Senate Committee on Primary Healthcare and Communicable Diseases on efforts being made to contain outbreak of meningitis and added that each vaccine could cost between $30 and $50.
This was even as senators declared that outbreak of meningitis across the country was caused by poor awareness campaigns of relevant government agencies.
They however promised to provide the necessary support to the Ministry of Health, in a bid to contain and end the outbreak.
At another meeting with the Chief Executive Secretary of the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, the committee noted that the outbreak may have been averted if relevant agencies had commenced campaigns to raise awareness on preventive measures when it first started in December 2016. Committee Chairman, Mao Ohuabunwa noted awareness remains low across the country.
“If this had been detected early, then we would have had rounds of vaccinations and would not be having this epidemic,” he said.
On his part, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has assured that the chamber will provide necessary support to the Ministry of Health, in the bid to contain and end the outbreak.
The death toll from the cerebrospinal meningitis disease currently ravaging Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina and Niger states, according to Ihekweazu, has risen to 328, from 2, 524 cases. He said vaccination for the Type C strain of the disease would commence on Wednesday, following procurement of the vaccines from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Briefing the committee on efforts made to contain the spread of the disease, Ihekweazu said the Type C strain of the disease is new to West Africa, hence the seeming unpreparedness to tackle it.
Ihekweazu said the vaccine was only procured two weeks ago as the criteria for application is that the country must be experiencing an outbreak.
Meanwhile, Lagos State Government has alerted residents on the dangers of meningitis and has urged them to report any suspected case to the nearest public health facility.
Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Dr. Jide Idris, explained that CSM is a dangerous and a life-threatening disease which affects thin layers of the tissue around the brain and spinal cord of an infected human person, caused by bacteria.
He added that cerebrospinal meningitis is an epidemic-prone disease which spreads from person to person, through contact, with discharges or droplets from the nose and throat of an infected person.
It can also be transmitted through kissing, sneezing and coughing, especially amongst people living in close quarters, hotels, refugee camp, barracks, public transportation and areas with poor ventilation or overcrowded places.
The commissioner added that no CSM case has been recorded in Lagos, contrary to reports.
Idris explained that the disease usually presents with high body temperature, pain and stiffness of the neck, headache, vomiting, fear of light, restlessness and confusion and stressed that death may occur if not promptly and properly managed.
He emphasised the need for the observance of high standards of personal and environmental hygiene as a preventive measure against the disease. The commissioner also noted that such measures should include washing of hands with soap and water frequently; avoiding direct contact with the discharges from an infected person and covering of the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.
“It is strongly advised for people to avoid overcrowding in living quarters, provide cross ventilation in sleeping and work-rooms and other places where many people come together and get vaccinated with the CSM vaccine when you are travelling to areas where meningitis outbreaks have been reported”, he added.
Idris noted that health workers in Lagos, especially health workers in hospitals, the state Epidemiology team and the Disease Surveillance and Notification Officers (DSNOs) in all the 57 Local Governments and Local Council Development Areas have been placed on high alert and “therefore, the disease surveillance and monitoring activities have since been intensified.”