The death toll of the latest outbreak of meningitis in Nigeria continues to rise. As of Wednesday, the number of victims had reached 270, most of them children. The National Center for Disease Control has acknowledged the presence of almost 2,000 cases in 15 states.
Five states in the north of the country and the Federal Capital territory have been hit the hardest, and the outbreak there has officially reached the level of epidemic.
The disease carries a new strain of type C meningitis, and it is believed to have been imported from abroad. The World Health Organization has said that children constitute the most at risk group, and that a vaccination campaign has started.
It is not the first time that Nigeria has been hit by a meningitis outbreak, the last time being in 2015, when more than 1,000 people died. The country lies in the so-called ‘meningitis belt’, where outbreaks occur regularly.
Meningitis is caused by bacteria and can be transmitted between people via coughs and sneezes. Poor hygiene and overpopulation are believed to have facilitated the epidemic.
Meningitis causes inflammation of the outer layers of the brain and presents itself with symptoms such as fever, headache and neck stiffness.
Image: Osioke Itseuwa