News: Thirteen die as eleven regions in Ethiopia see meningitis outbreak: WHO

Children during Meningitis C vaccination in Gambella. Picture: WHO

Addis Abeba – A new report on “Outbreaks and other Emergencies” published by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 03 April said 13 deaths (case fatality ratio (CFR) 0.9%) and a total of 1 398 suspected meningitis cases have been reported from 11 out of 12 regions in Ethiopia. Of these four regions: Oromia, Somali, SNNPR, Amhara, “crossed the epidemic threshold”, and five regions – Harari, Afar, Addis Abeba city Administration, Benishangul-Gumuz and Gambella – “crossed the alert threshold” of meningitis outbreak.

Oromia region has been the most affected, reporting 610 (44%) cases, followed by Somali with 211 (15%) cases

According to the report, a meningitis outbreak has been ongoing in Ethiopia since week 49 of 2021 – ending 12 December.

“Five regions, namely Oromia, Somali, SNNPR, Amhara, and Harari account for 87.8% (1 228 cases) of the total suspected meningitis cases reported. Oromia region has been the most affected, reporting 610 (44%) cases, followed by Somali with 211 (15%) cases, and SNNPR with 154 (11%) cases.”

The report said Ethiopia was one of the African countries “affected with both armed conflict and natural disasters” – drought, disease outbreaks – including the ongoing meningitis outbreak. “Although a relatively low CFR has been recorded for the meningitis outbreak, it is important that the necessary actions are implemented for its control and prevent any deterioration.”

Pre-deployment training was conducted for the Rapid Response teams; as well as capacity building for laboratory management is ongoing and cerebrospinal fluid collection from suspected meningitis cases continues. “Samples are being shipped to the regional referral laboratories. The government is ensuring adequate case management. The request for Ceftriaxone antibiotic for case management was submitted to the International Coordinating Group (ICG)” WHO said.

However, the recommended that in-country laboratory capacity building should be considered as a priority to prevent any delay in diagnosis of the bacterial pathogen and request the required vaccine for the response. “The national authorities and partners should provide adequate funds, logistics and drugs for case management.” AS

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