Disease Outbreak News

Disease Outbreak News

From 1 January to 28 June 2015, Niger’s Ministry of Public Health notified WHO of 8500 suspected cases of meningococcal meningitis, including 573 deaths. This is a rapidly growing outbreak with some unprecedented features.

Suspected cases increased very quickly, tripling weekly between 1-15 May 2015, leading to the first large-scale meningitis outbreak caused by Neisseria meningitidis serogroup C to hit any country in Africa’s meningitis belt.

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In this bulletin, it is important to note that the Ebola outbreak in Liberia ended on 9 May 2015. This is a significant achievement given the fact that the outbreak was ongoing for over a year and caused the largest number of deaths due to Ebola virus disease (EVD). On the other hand, EVD is on the increase in three prefectures in Guinea over the last two weeks in May 2015. In addition, an unprecedented meningitis outbreak has also been reported in Niger.

In this issue, a general overview of public health events occuring between January-April 2015, including outbreaks, will be described to inform public health officers, health partners and other readers of the current situation in the WHO African Region.

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15 May 2015

From 1 January to 12 May 2015, Niger’s Ministry of Public Health notified WHO of 6179 suspected cases of meningococcal meningitis, including 423 deaths. This is a rapidly growing outbreak with some unprecedented features.

Suspected cases have been increasing very quickly, tripling over the last two weeks (see previous notification from 29 April 2015). This is the first large-scale and fast spreading meningitis outbreak caused by Neisseria meningitides serogroup C to hit any country in Africa’s meningitis belt.

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The Federal Ministry of Health of Nigeria notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of a suspected lead poisoning outbreak in Unguwan Magiro and Unguwan Kawo communities in Rafi LGA of Niger State on 15 May 2015.

The first cases were reported on 9 March 2015. Since then, a total of 48 cases including 14 deaths (CRF 29.2%) have been so far reported. The common symptoms presented by affected persons are fever, pallor, abdominal pain, vomiting, convulsion and altered level of consciousness. Cases have been recorded mostly in children (age range: 7 months – 11 years) and both sexes (26 male, 22 female) have been affected. Blood samples of four of the hospitalized cases have been tested, revealing high level of serum lead (between 171.5 – 224 μg Pb/dl). Artisanal gold mining as well as agriculture are the predominant occupations in the affected communities. An unusual number of livestock (cows and goats) are also reported to be dying.

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Between 31 December 2014 and 22 April 2015, the Ministry of Public Health of Niger notified WHO of 1150 suspected cases of meningococcal disease, including 129 deaths. Suspected cases have been reported in seven of Niger’s eight regions. Meningococcal meningitis outbreaks have been confirmed in several areas of Dosso and Niamey regions.

In Dosso region, 256 cases, including 25 deaths have been reported, primarily from Dogon-Doutchi and Gaya districts where several areas have exceeded the epidemic threshold.

In Niamey, 608 suspected cases, including 74 deaths, have so far been reported. Three of Niamey’s five districts (Niamey I, II and III, with a total population of over 660 000) have exceeded the epidemic threshold.

Laboratory tests have confirmed the predominance of Neisseria meningitidis serogroup C in the affected areas, with Neisseria meningitidis serogroup W also being identified in several samples.

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