The World Health Organization has declared an epidemic of meningitis in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
So far 129 people have died from the outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.
In a statement it said a total of 261 suspected cases have been recorded with a “high case fatality ratio of 50 percent.”
“Confirmatory tests carried out by the Institut Pasteur in Paris detected Neisseria meningitidis – one of the most frequent types of bacterial meningitis with the potential to cause large epidemics,” the statement said.
#Meningitis outbreak declared in #DRC🇨🇩’s north-eastern #Tshopo Province where 261 suspected cases & 129 deaths have been reported. @MinSanteRDC has deployed an initial emergency team. Efforts are underway to quickly ramp up response with @WHO support. https://t.co/Ft0bPu4NL8
— WHO African Region (@WHOAFRO) September 8, 2021
According to the WHO, “A crisis response committee has been set up in Banalia, the community affected by the outbreak, as well as in Kisangani, the capital of Tshopo, to accelerate the outbreak control efforts.”
“Meningitis is a serious infection and a major public health challenge. We are moving fast, delivering medicines and deploying experts to support the government’s efforts to bring the outbreak under control in the shortest possible time,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa said.
Meningitis is transmitted among people through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions from infected people.
Close and prolonged contact or living in close quarters with an infected person facilitates the spread of the disease.
Although people of all ages can catch the disease, it mainly affects babies, children and young people.
“We are scaling up control measures within the community and rapidly investigating suspected cases in surrounding localities to treat patients and curb potentially widespread infections,” Dr Amédée Prosper Djiguimdé, WHO Representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo said.
Over 1.6 million people aged between 1 and 29 years were vaccinated in a massive campaign in 2016 in Tshopo.
Meningitis outbreaks have occurred in several provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the past.
The African meningitis belt which runs across the continent from Senegal to Ethiopia and comprises 26 countries is the most vulnerable globally to recurrent outbreaks.