Sunday 15 September 1996

Thousands of Africans fall prey to meningitis every year. A major initiative was launched this week by the World Health Organization ( who ) to control the recurring cycle of cerebrospinal meningitis epidemics in Africa and reduce their devastating consequences. Since the beginning of this year, more than 140,000 cases of cerebrospinal meningitis have occurred in Africa, resulting in at least 15,000 deaths -- the highest numbers ever reported to who for a single year in Africa. Of these cases, 95 per cent occurred in the 'meningitis belt' of sub-Saharan Africa -- the region stretching from Ethiopia in the east to Senegal on the west coast -- where the disease is endemic.

A select group of epidemiologists from the region held a three-day consultation with who specialists at its regional office for Africa in Brazzaville, Congo. The who will help the affected countries to identify epidemics at their outset, take timely preventive measures to lessen the spread of the disease, and provide rapid treatment of cases.

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