With new cases of cerebrospinal meningitis (CSM) confirmed in two states, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has called on Nigerians to be on high alert against the disease.
This advice was given in a press statement signed by the agency’s director general, Chikwe Ihekweazu, on Tuesday.
According to the disease control agency, over the last one month, there has been an increase in suspected cases of CSM in Katsina, Zamfara, Jigawa, Yobe, Ebonyi, Bauchi, Sokoto, Kano, Bayelsa and Ondo with confirmed cases of Neisseria Meningitis Type C (Nmc) reported in Zamfara and Jigawa States.
This situation had necessitated the issuance of a precautionary statement to advice Nigerians on tips to prevent spread of the disease.
Cerebrospinal Meningitis is a seasonal disease that occurs yearly in Nigeria.
This is because Nigeria happens to be one of the African countries on the African meningitis belt.
CSM remains a major public health challenge, affecting 25 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Nigeria.
Although the disease is vaccine preventable, Nigeria experiences sporadic bursts of strains of meningitis A and recently C.
CSM is an acute inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and the spinal cord. It is a very serious infection that can lead to death if left untreated.
The disease is associated with dry season, high temperatures and low humidity. This increases the likelihood of transmission of organisms causing CSM in Nigeria.
The disease is contagious and can be transmitted through tiny droplets of respiratory secretions from an infected person, during close contact such as coughing or sneezing.
Meningitis is more common among persons aged less than 15 years and deaths are higher among untreated cases.
Signs and symptoms include sudden high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, difficulty concentrating, and convulsions.
Mr Ihekweazu said the major risk factors for infection include overcrowding and poor ventilation. During outbreaks, reactive vaccination campaigns can be used to prevent the spread of the disease, he said.
He also assured Nigerians that NCDC and partners have commenced preparedness activities, through the national CSM Technical Working Group (TWG).
He explained that the TWG has completed a risk assessment exercise for prioritisation, and issued letters of alert to states to ensure adequate preparedness this season.
He, however, said NCDC is issuing a public health advisory note to members of the public to be aware of the risk and take appropriate precautions.
To prevent the spread of CSM, NCDC offerred five important tips to members of the public:
• Avoid overcrowding and ensure adequate ventilation in the home.
• Cover your nose and mouth with a disposable tissue or by blowing into the elbow when sneezing or coughing.
• Wash your hands frequently especially after coughing or sneezing.
• Visit a health facility if you have sudden high fever or neck stiffness for diagnosis and treatment.
• All health workers are advised to practice universal care precautions at all times: i.e. wearing gloves while handling patients or providing care to an ill relative.
“It is very important to report to the nearest health facility immediately, if you experience any of the signs or symptoms listed above.
“If you notice any member(s) of your family or neighbourhood with any of the listed signs or symptoms, kindly encourage them to report to the nearest health facility. Early presentation to a health facility and treatment increases chances of survival.”