Today as we mark World Meningitis Day, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, calls on all stakeholders – policy makers, leaders, communities and individuals – to join in raising awareness on Meningitis in Nigeria.
Globally, World Meningitis Day is observed on the 24th of April every year to raise awareness about this dreadful but preventable disease.
Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes, known as meninges, that protect the brain and spinal cord from infection and direct physical injury.
The infection of the meninges by microorganisms such as bacteria or viruses results in the condition known as Meningitis, a very serious infection that can lead to death if left untreated.
This year, the NCDC seeks to increase awareness on the signs, symptoms and the devastating after-effects that it can have, the extreme importance of early diagnosis and treatment, and the crucial need to support Meningitis survivors and their families
Globally, Meningitis affects about 2.8 million people each year. This disease remains a major public health challenge affecting countries in the African meningitis belt, where Nigeria falls; in 2019, 15 States are currently affected in Nigeria. Meningitis cases have been found to occur through the year in the country with an observed increase during the dry season.
The disease is highly contagious and can kill within 24 hours, so recognising the symptoms early and acting fast is crucial. Meningitis can affect anyone, however infants, young children, adolescents and older people are at greatest risk, with major risk factors being overcrowding and poor ventilation.
This year’s World Meningitis Day theme is “Life After Meningitis”. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), About 10%–15% of those surviving meningococcal meningitis will suffer from complications, including mental disorders, deafness, palsies and seizures; or disabilities resulting from damages to the nervous system, including hearing loss, learning and behavioural difficulties; and other complications such as loss of sight, limb, and organ damage.
Raising awareness of Meningitis and its after-effects is therefore very vital – “We all have a collective responsibility to address this public health challenge.
“As the agency with the mandate to protect the health of Nigerians, NCDC works closely with the Federal Ministry of Health, the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), otherrelevant agencies and partners to sensitise Nigerians on the disease and coordinate response nationally in the event of an outbreak.” – Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director-General, NCDC.
Meningitis can be prevented by avoiding overcrowded places and ensuring adequate ventilation in the home, covering the nose and mouth with a disposable tissue when sneezing, coughing, or blowing the nose and disposing used tissues promptly into a waste bin. Form the habit of washing hands frequently with soap under a running water, especially after coughing or sneezing.
Early presentation to a health facility and treatment increases chances of survival, so visiting the health facility immediately symptoms is extremely crucial. All health workers are advised to practice standard precautions at all times – wear gloves while handling patients or providing care to an ill relative.
- This year’s theme ‘Life After Meningitis’ aims to highlight the courage and bravery of meningitis survivors and their families in overcoming the challenges that they face on a daily basis, and the need to support them.
- Meningitis can be caused by several microbes, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. Of these, bacterial meningitis is the most common in Nigeria.
- Bacterial Meningitis is of significant public health importance because: It has a high morbidity and mortality, it can be epidemic-prone depending on the type of bacteria, and it is both treatable and preventable.
- In 1996, ‘N. meningitidis sero-group A’ killed 11,717 of the 109,580 recorded cases in Nigeria, with subsequent epidemics in 2003, 2008, and 2009.
- Sequential outbreaks of ‘sero-group C’ were observed in 2013 and 2014 in northwestern Nigeria, followed by what was possibly the largest global ‘sero-group C’ epidemic ever reported with 14,518 suspected cases between December 13, 2016, and June 15, 2017.
- More information about meningitis in Nigeria can be found on the NCDC website via https://ncdc.gov.ng/diseases/info/M.
- In the 2017/2018 Meningitis outbreak season, about 3467 suspected cases were reported in Nigeria with 303 deaths. As at 19th of April 2019, 760 suspected Meningitis cases have been reported with 58 deaths in the 2018/2019 outbreak season.
- Symptoms of Meningitis include sudden high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, sensitivity to light (photophobia), difficulty concentrating, drowsiness, and convulsions. It is transmitted through tiny droplets of respiratory secretions from an infected person through coughing, sneezing, touching contaminated surfaces.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) was established in the year 2011 in response to the challenges of public health emergencies and to enhance Nigeria’s preparedness and response to epidemics through prevention, detection, and control of communicable diseases. Its core mandate is to detect, investigate, prevent and control diseases of national and international public health importance.