Meningitis epidemic in Burkina

Sunday 15 April 2007

The death toll from a meningitis epidemic in Burkina Faso rose to 432 in the third week of March with 4,958 people affected by the disease. Seven other West African countries--Cote d'Ivoire, Niger, Mali, Benin, Ghana, Togo and Guinea--have also reported outbreaks of the disease. However, Burkina Faso is the hardest hit.

In February, the government expressed its inability to contain the disease and appealed for international help. Meanwhile, the International Coordination Group on vaccine provision for epidemic meningitis control has delivered 530,000 doses of vaccines, while another 3.3 million doses will be delivered shortly, says a who report.

Disease outbreaks in the semi-arid Sahel in west Africa, often referred to as the meningitis belt, happen every year during the dry seasons between December and June. Five to 10 per cent of patients die within 24 to 48 hours of the first symptoms, while 10 to 20 per cent of survivors suffer brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities. In 1996, Africa had the worst recorded meningitis epidemic, when over 25,000 people succumbed to the disease.

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