Quest for the Truth and Justice

Lessons learnt from untamed meningitis outbreak

Posted by on Apr 6th, 2017 and filed under Editorial, Top Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

The latest body count shows that Nigeria has lost over 320 persons from the outbreak of Cerebrospinal Meningitis, CSM, in the last couple of weeks. What’s more, the response has been lethargic. It’s as if deaths don’t count again in Nigeria or is it because the disease affects mostly poor people from rural areas? So what may have gone wrong: poor leadership, lack of vaccines, lack of human resources or facilities? Even Ebola that is more deadly was better managed and contained. What is sure is that, this strain of the disease is not common, that is the more reason everyone should be on guard, but we haven’t to a large extent. Also, this outbreak has affected residents of the northern half and north central of the country. Kwara should therefore take note!

In a public advisory on the latest outbreak, the Federal Ministry of Health, explained that for the first time, the meningitis epidemic is caused by Neisseria Meningitides type C rather than the known Meningitides Type A.. Nigeria has a long history of CSM epidemics. One of the worst occurred in 1996 when 109,580 cases and 11,717 deaths were recorded. In 2003, there were 4,130 cases and 401 deaths; 9,086 cases and 562 deaths in 2008,  and 9,086 cases and 562 deaths recorded in 2009. The historical records and past experiences influenced health authorities in Africa (especially countries within the African Meningitis Belt), the World Health Organisation and Development Partners to roll out a strategic intervention for the effective prevention of such epidemics. As at Friday, March 31, 2017, there were 2,524 infections with 328 deaths recorded in 90 local government areas in 16 states of the Federation.

The affected states include Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Nassarawa , Jigawa, FCT, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe. Others are Kano, Osun, Cross Rivers, Lagos and Plateau. According to the Centres for Diseases Control and Prevention, CDC, bacterial meningitis is very serious and can be deadly. Death can occur in as little as a few hours, and even though most people recover from meningitis, however, permanent disabilities (such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities) can result from the infection. Types of bacteria that can cause meningitis includes: streptococcus pneumonia. For Group B: Streptococcus, Neisseria meningitidis, Haemophilus influenzae and Listeria monocytogenes. Common causes of bacterial meningitis vary by age group.  People at increased risk for bacterial meningitis include babies  compared to people in other age groups. However, people of any age can develop bacterial meningitis.

People working with meningitis-causing pathogens, such as microbiologists are routinely exposed to meningitis-causing bacteria and are at increased risk for meningitis. Generally, the  meningitis bacteria spread from one person to another although how people spread the germs often depends on the type of bacteria. It is also important to know that people can carry these bacteria in or on their bodies without being sick. These people are “carriers.” Most carriers never become sick, but can still spread the bacteria to others. People spread germs by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who breathe in the bacteria. People spread Neisseria meningitidis by sharing respiratory or throat secretions (saliva or spit). This typically occurs during close (coughing or kissing) or lengthy (living in the same household) contact.

What to look out for as signs or symptoms in Meningitis include sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. There are often other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, photophobia (increased sensitivity to light) and altered mental status (confusion). In newborns and babies, the meningitis symptoms of fever, headache, and neck stiffness may be absent or difficult to notice. The baby may be irritable, vomiting, feed poorly, or appear to be slow or inactive. In young babies, doctors may also look for a bulging fontanelle (soft spot on infant’s head) or abnormal reflexes. If you think your baby or child has any of these symptoms, call the doctor right away. Symptoms of bacterial meningitis can appear quickly or over several days. Typically, they develop within 3 to 7 days after exposure. Later, symptoms of bacterial meningitis can be very serious (e.g., seizures, coma). Early diagnosis, treatment and isolation can alter degeneration of the body and patient may fully recover.

It’s better to collect blood samples around the spinal cord in order to correctly diagnose this strain. The best antidote for treating meningitis is a particular type of antibiotics. Doctors rather than self medication is advised. The most effective way to be protected against certain types of bacterial meningitis is to get vaccinated against the three types of bacteria that can cause meningitis. Also, avoidance of overcrowding, sleeping in well ventilated places, avoidance of close and prolonged contact with  case/s and proper disposal of respiratory and throat secretions. Others include: Strict observance of hand hygiene and sneezing into Elbow joint/sleeves, reduction of  hand shaking, kissing, sharing utensils or medical interventions such as mouth resuscitation; vaccination with relevant sero-type of the meningococcal vaccine and avoidance of self-medication.   Government, media and civil society organizations must ramp up isolation of patients, provision of drugs and awareness campaigns around Nigeria. Response to such public health issue must be treated as national emergency.

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