To forestall fatalities in this year’s predicted cerebrospinal meningitis outbreak in the country as the dry season sets in, Nigerians have been asked to get vaccinated against the contagious disease and to also avoid overcrowded environments.
Meningitis outbreak, PUNCH HealthWise, gathered is common during the dry season.
People who are less than 15 years of age are more vulnerable to the affliction, experts say.
According to reports, dry season begins around November and peaks around March and April when the temperature is hottest, before subsiding in June/July every year.
In preparation for this year’s outbreak, Director/National Coordinator, Neglected Tropical Diseases Elimination Programme, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Chukwuma Anyaike, said people in meningitis-prone states should get vaccinated and not wait until there is an outbreak.
Dr. Anyaike, a consultant public health physician, stated this during an interview with PUNCH HealthWise, stressing that because meningitis comes every dry season, people should therefore be adequately prepared before the outbreak.
He said, “Yearly, it must happen and it can happen anytime now once the heat becomes intense. Nigeria is on the meningitis belt and therefore, we must prepare for it.
“We must get the vaccine ready for possible outbreak and people should also avoid things that trigger the disease like overcrowding. People should avoid overcrowded environments and get vaccinated. That is the first principle of prevention.
“Children, especially those under-five should be vaccinated while people should also cultivate the habit of good hygiene practices.”
According to him, both adults and children should be vaccinated against meningitis.
Experts say CSM is a major public health challenge affecting countries in the African meningitis belt and in Nigeria, over 20 states and the Federal Capital Territory are said to be most affected.
According to a fact sheet from Africa Check, different types of bacteria can cause meningitis, but Neisseria meningitidis has been identified as the major culprit in most of Nigeria’s epidemics.
The fact sheet reveals that the disease is transmitted by drops of respiratory or throat secretions from people carrying the bacteria.
Adding that the bacteria has 12 subgroups and six of them – serotypes A, B, C, W, X and Y – cause epidemics, with type A epidemics being the most common in the African meningitis belt.
Giving further insight into the need for vaccination, the physician said in the case of an outbreak, five groups of people need to be vaccinated.
“The adolescents (10-12 years), those travelling to states prone to outbreak, older people, children under-five and people with compromised immunity. People don’t need to wait until there is an outbreak of the disease before being vaccinated. We need to have effective surveillance . Just a single person having a sign of meningitis, is an emergency.
“It is an upper respiratory infection, so if one person contacts it in a community, it is a big problem. So, all the people in high risk states especially those in the north should be vaccinated because if they wait for an outbreak to occur before vaccination, it may escalate and the hospitals may not be able to manage the number of people that may be affected. So, prevention is better than cure. The good thing about meningitis is that it has a vaccine”, he said.
According to WHO, the obvious symptoms are a stiff neck, fever, light sensitivity, headaches and vomiting. The symptoms are usually observed between day 2 and day 10 of infection.
Evidence shows between December 2016 and June 23, 2017, Nigeria recorded severe cases of the disease with a total of 1,166 people dead.
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