Thursday, 30 July 2015

#Africa At Risk Of Meningitis Outbreak–World Health Organisation #WHO

The World Health Organisation and three other international public health organisations have warned that Africa is at risk of a large meningitis outbreak if production of vaccines are not scaled up.

In a statement by the WHO, the organisations warned that an acute shortage of meningitis C-containing vaccine threatened to severely limit the world’s ability to minimise the number of people with the disease.

The other three organisations include the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Médecins sans Frontières, and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

The four bodies constitute the International Coordinating Group for Vaccine Provision for Epidemic Meningitis Control.

WHO described Meningococcal meningitis as a bacterial form of meningitis, a serious infection of the thin lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.

It can cause severe brain damage with fatality in 50 per cent of cases if untreated.
It added that several different bacteria can cause meningitis and the Neisseria meningitidis is the one with the potential to cause large epidemics.

The organisations urged vaccine manufacturers to step up meningitis C-containing vaccine production by five million doses before the 2016 meningitis season starts in January.
William Perea, Coordinator for Control of Epidemic Diseases Unit, WHO, said, “meningitis tends to hit Africa in cycles.

“Cases of meningitis C have been rising since 2013, first in Nigeria in 2013 and 2014, and then in Niger in 2015.
“We have to be ready for a much larger number of cases during the 2016 meningitis season”.

The Health Specialist, Program Division, UNICEF said, “We have had preliminary discussions with vaccine manufacturers.

“We have impressed upon them the need to produce a stockpile of five million doses of vaccine so as to be ready for flare-ups of the disease next year in Africa.
“But so far, they have not yet revised their production plans to meet demand,” Mirza said.

The statement noted that substantial progress had been made in protecting Africa from other main sub-types of meningitis with, for example, the introduction of the MenAfrVac vaccine against meningitis A in 2010.

However, further work is needed to protect the African meningitis belt from meningitis C outbreaks. Myriam Henkens, International Medical Coordinator, MSF said: “In just the first six months of 2015, there have been 12,000 cases of meningitis C in Niger and Nigeria, and 800 deaths.
“At the same time, there has been a critical shortage of vaccine.

“The campaigns consequently were limited to the critically affected age groups and areas, and even so, had to be delayed until vaccine supply became available.

“We believe next year will be worse.
“We need vaccine manufacturers to plan production of multivalent vaccine now to allow sufficient lead time and capacity to meet this demand,’’ the statement quoted Henkens.

The ICG stressed that vaccination remained key to preventing meningitis.
The Senior Officer, Emergency Health, IFRC, Amanda McClelland, said the introduction of the meningitis A conjugate vaccine (MenAfriVac) in 2010 in 15 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa had dramatically reduced the burden of meningitis.

According to her, no epidemics of meningitis A have been reported in areas where the population has been vaccinated, necessitating the need to also deploy same strategy for meningitis C.

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