450 million Africans threatened by spinal meningitis
22 April 2016, 16:19
Abidjan – Spinal meningitis, which can kill in 24 hours, poses a
threat to 450 million Africans this year, according to medical experts from
eight of the continent's countries.
Meningococcal meningitis is a global burden that affects 1.2
million people every year and causes the death of 135 000 of them, said the
doctors from west and central Africa.
Twenty-six countries that make up the so-called "African
meningitis belt that stretches from Senegal to Ethiopia – an area home to 450
million people – may be heavily affected by epidemic outbreaks," said the
doctors at a press conference.
"Meningitis is still a problem, we must react to avoid
tragedy," said Dr Elia Gilbernair, a medic at pharmaceutical giant Sanofi
which organised the conference.
Dr Gilbernair added that countries don't make calls for stockpiles
of meningitis vaccines until the last moment, when an epidemic is declared.
Mali's Professor Mamadou Keita Marouf called for a mass
vaccination programme to help prevent the disease responsible for
"practically decimating a generation".
Professor Ye Ouattara Diarra, from Burkina Faso, described
meningitis as a public health problem and called for increased monitoring to
help detect cases early.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned in December of a risk
of fresh meningitis outbreaks this year in Africa, particularly Niger and Nigeria
which were both badly hit in 2015.
Meningitis is an acute inflammation of the protective membranes
covering the brain and spinal cord and can be life-threatening.
Symptoms include high fever, a stiff neck, vomiting and severe