The Federal Ministry of Health said on friday that 328 deaths have been recorded so far in the current cerebrospinal meningitis outbreak across some states in the country. The situation report from the ministry as at Friday, March 31, show that 90 local government areas in 16 states of the federation have so far been affected including Zamfara, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Nasarawa, Jigawa, FCT, Gombe, Taraba, Yobe, Osun, Cross Rivers, Lagos and Plateau.
A press statement signed by Boade Akinola, Director Media and Public Relations released on Friday, said the current outbreak of Cerebro Spinal Meningitis, CSM, has spread across the country, mostly affecting states in the part of Nigeria which fall within the African Meningitis Belt.
The epidemic is not unique to Nigeria, the ministry said, with other neighbouring West African countries like Niger, Chad, Cameroun, Togo and Burkina Faso are facing similar outbreak.
According to statistics from the federal health ministry, 2524 people have been affected across the states, 131 samples confirmed in the laboratory with majority as meningitides type C, and 328 deaths recorded so far.
The outbreak started in Zamfara State in November, 2016. The ministry has, however, advised Nigerians to remain calm as the disease is preventable and curable if presented early.
Some of the health advice given for prevention are avoidance of overcrowding, sleep in well ventilated places, avoidance of close and prolonged contact with cases, proper disposal of respiratory and throat secretions, strict observance of hand hygiene, reduce hand shaking, kissing, sharing utensils or medical intervention such as mouth resuscitation.
Self medication should also be avoided and relevant stereotype vaccination for meningococcal should be taken. It is also important for individuals to acquaint themselves with basic knowledge of CSM in order to prevent transmission.
Mrs. Akinola said people should seek early treatment as all secondary and tertiary public health facilities have been directed to provide free treatment to all CSM patients.
“Although the cumulative number of people and locations affected may continue to increase, the actual rate of increase has begun to decline in some states indicating that the end to the epidemic is in sight,” she added.
Nigeria is facing a major shortfall in vaccines amid the worst outbreak of meningitis since the disease that causes inflammation of the brain lining and spinal cord killed more than 2,000 Nigerians in 2009.
Although Nigeria has Africa’s largest oil reserves, basic health care is parlous, with most rural residents living below the poverty line of $2 a day. Meningitis is spread by viral and bacterial infections. It thrives in close living quarters and is particularly dangerous for children.
The World Health Organisation, the United Nations Children’s Fund and Doctors without Borders are all involved in trying to curb the outbreak. Nigerians are advised to remain calm as the ministry is working together with these agencies to put an end to the epidemic.