According to a story from UN News, the World Health Organization (WHO), in conjunction with partners, has initiated a new vaccination campaign targeting meningitis in Africa. This is part of the WHO’s long term strategy to wipe out the illness on the continent by the year 2030. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed prior vaccination efforts, increasing the risk of disease outbreaks.
Meningitis is a disease in which the protective membranes around the spinal cord and brain, known as the meninges, become inflamed. Because of how close the inflammation is to the spine and brain, the infection constitutes a medical emergency that must be addressed in a timely fashion. Meningitis can appear from a diverse array of causes such as certain drugs and infection from certain microbes, such as fungi, viruses, and bacteria. Characteristic symptoms of the disease include headaches, stiff neck, and an altered state of consciousness. Other symptoms include fever, intolerance of loud noises and light, and vomiting. Without prompt treatment, this disease can inflict long-term problems such as cognitive disability, deafness, and epilepsy. Treatment depends on the cause, but if the disease is suspected, antibiotics are recommended as soon as possible, even if the definite diagnosis hasn’t been confirmed. In the Western world, bacterial meningitis is rare. To learn more about meningitis, click here.
Targeting a Dangerous Infection
The meningitis season in Africa typically runs from January to June, so African nations are being pressured to act quickly and participate in the campaign. An estimated 400 million people on the continent are at risk of infection. In the past, meningitis type A was the most widespread form in the region. A vaccine, called MenAfriVac, was first deployed in 2010.
No new cases of type A meningitis have been reported since 2017, a major health victory for Africans. This success has greatly reduced the mortality rate of infections. While the fatality rate was around 50 percent in 2004, now 95 percent of people that are infected survive.
Nevertheless, COVID-19 disrupted meningitis prevention efforts, and deadly outbreaks still occur. $1.5 billion will be needed to implement the 2030 plan, but if successful, over 100,000 lives could be saved annually.