After the disease had caused about 1,166 deaths over 23 weeks in 25 states, the Nigerian government has finally declared the meningitis epidemic over in the country.
The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, made the declaration on Wednesday.
“We have formally declared the Meningitis outbreak over in the country,” he told State House correspondents at the end of the meeting.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, had earlier on Monday on its official Twitter handle declared that the meningitis outbreak was over.
Before the declaration, health officials combated the disease since late last year under monitoring by the Ministry of Health, the NCDC, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, NPHCDA, and International partner organisations.
Statistics from NCDC showed that a total 14,518 suspected cases were reported from 25 states since the outbreak was first recorded in Zamfara State in November 2016.
“We also informed FEC that we have not recorded new cases of Polio in the country in 2017. We have recorded seven new cases of Lassa fever across the country and the cholera outbreak in Kwara State has also fizzled out”, Mr. Adewole said on the other public health issues.
The NCDC, on its official Twitter handle on Monday, stated that from its data analysis in the last few weeks, it was confirming the 2016/17 meningitis outbreak in Nigeria over.
The Executive Director of NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu, said with the outbreak over, Emergency Operations Centres (EOCs) responding to the epidemic had been stepped down.
Mr. Ihekweazu said the outbreak had been in constant decline for eight weeks during which the affected states had recorded much fewer new cases.
The decline is believed to be due to the change in weather as Nigeria entered the rainy reason from the hot weather during which the disease spread.
The NCDC said it has also begun preparation for the next meningitis season.
According to the NDDC tweet, “Our preparedness for the next meningitis season has begun. We are working towards being better prepared than we are.”
Mr. Ihekweazu said NCDC had established a National EOC, which coordinated the national outbreak response.
“The planning process to prevent future outbreaks and ensuring better preparedness for the next epidemic season has begun. Laboratory capacity has been improved with the recent operationalisation of the new National Reference Laboratory in Gaduwa, Abuja with support from the Federal Ministry of Health, the US CDC and the World Health Organisation.”
He added that NCDC was coordinating a network of laboratories across the country to improve case confirmation capacity as well as putting up National guidelines towards responding to future outbreaks.
“These are being developed together with ongoing continuous awareness campaigns, keeping the general public informed. Workshops to improve preparedness are also being organised,” he stated.
He also disclosed that the reactive vaccination campaigns led by the NPHCDA were successfully conducted in Zamfara, Sokoto, Yobe and Katsina states.
“The state governments were fully engaged in conducting these campaigns to ensure that the vaccines reached the most at-risk population.”
Zamfara State, which recorded the first case of the outbreak, recorded the highest casualty; followed by Sokoto, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi and Yobe, which all reached the alert/epidemic threshold
The disease affected a total of 226 local governments across Nigeria.
The outbreak became epidemic because of late diagnosis in Zamfara as many health professionals missed the epidemiology of the disease when first presented, thereby making government intervention through provision of vaccines late.
The federal government also could not intervene early because of the non-availability of vaccine in the country for the strain C meningitis.