Meningitis concern across Africa

Thursday 15 November 2007

Twenty-one African countries, often referred as the meningitis belt, will be hit by the worst epidemic of the disease by the end of this year's rainy season, said who at an emergency meeting of un bodies and ngos in Burkina Faso.

The meningitis outbreak, which usually reaches epidemic levels between December and May, could be especially severe this year as the region is heading towards the peak of a 10- to 12-year cycle of meningitis crises, health forecasters said at the meeting. A vaccine shortage could exacerbate the crisis, they said. The region reported 53,000 cases including 4,000 deaths in 2006.

In 2006, only 7 million doses of vaccines were available for the entire region due to funding shortfalls and a global deficit in the production of cheaper vaccines.

The agency has asked donor organizations to purchase at least 12 million doses of vaccines beforehand. who is also contemplating to set up a security stock of 500,000 vaccine doses in each of the countries in the meningitis belt.

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