Nigeria Meningitis Outbreak: Death toll rises to 438 as mass immunisation commences in Zamfara

Meningitis vaccination used to illustrate the story [Photo Credit: communit.com]
Meningitis vaccination used to illustrate the story [Photo Credit: communit.com]

The death toll from suspected cases of meningitis has reached 438, an official said.

John Oladejo, the incident manager of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, stated this in a statement released by the centre.

“As at April 5, 2017, 3,959 suspected cases have been reported as part of the current outbreak, of which 181 cases have been laboratory-confirmed.

“A total of 438 deaths (11 per cent of all cases) have been reported from 106 LGAs in 19 states in the country and outbreak response and control activities are ongoing in the State to curtail the outbreak”, he added.

In Zamfara, the state most affected by the outbreak of the Cerebro Spinal Meningitis, residents have been turning out in large numbers for a mass vaccination exercise against the disease.

The Federal Government on Thursday kicked off the vaccination exercise in Zamfara State. The state governor, Abdulaziz Yari, earlier in the week came under fire from across the country for attributing the outbreak of the disease to God’s anger over the sins of Nigerians.

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, and the NCDC, responded to the outbreak by beginning the vaccination exercise in Zamfara, in collaboration with the state government.

A statement on Friday by NCDC stated that the campaign, which targets 300,000 persons aged 2 – 29 years, started on Thursday in the eight most affected local government areas in Zamfara State, and will continue until Sunday.

It said more campaigns are planned in other states in the near future.

Abdullahi Shinkafi, the Secretary to the Zamfara State Government and Chairman of the Zamfara State Committee for the Control of Meningitis, is coordinating oversight of the vaccination exercise, in close collaboration with the NCDC Chief Executive Officer, Chikwe Ihekweazu, who is leading an NCDC technical team to monitor and supervise the campaign.

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According to the statement, the Zamfara State government had worked with the Federal Ministry of Health, NPHCDA, NCDC and other global partners on an intensive sensitization exercise to increase community participation ahead of the vaccination campaign.

“The team of experts is tasked with planning, coordinating and implementing an effective vaccination campaign in collaboration with the recently commissioned Meningitis Emergency Operations Centre at NCDC”, it stated.

“Traditional leaders and several community groups are helping with mobilization of people across the state,” it added.

Mr. Ihekweazu was quoted as saying the commitment of the traditional rulers has been evident in the state; stating that they had helped mobilise their community members for the exercise.

“Indeed, we see an opportunity for a sustainable initiative which will go beyond this response.

“Reports from the field indicate early progress in the vaccination exercise. In Zamfara State, there has been a massive turnout recorded in the target local government areas.”

To support effective outbreak response coordination across the entire country, the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, had mandated the NCDC to activate an Emergency Operations Centre which has swung into action.

The Centre is currently staffed with experts from the NCDC, NPCHDA, the Federal Ministry of Health and others from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, UNICEF and other partner agencies.

The Incident Manager, Mr. Oladejo, said their work at the EOC is to put in place a sustainable process for responding to the current Meningitis outbreak.

“We are happy to say that this is truly a partnership focused on successfully stopping the outbreak. We will work round the clock to implement rapid response plans and deal with emerging issue”.

He also stated that the National Assembly was aware of the work of the EOC and the NCDC and had expressed its support.

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