Meningitis epidemic sweeps northern Nigeria

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 09 March 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:598
  1. Claudia Court

    At least 1650 people in Nigeria have died in the past month as a result of a meningitis epidemic in the north of the country. The Nigerian government was this week poised to declare a state of emergency following the deaths. There are also epidemics of cholera and gastroenteritis.

    The aid agency Medecins sans Frontieres says that the epidemic of meningococcus A infection is “of unprecedented dimensions.” Death rates for the past two months have stood at almost 20%.

    The worst affected area includes the northern capital of Kano and the towns of Bauchi, Kebbi, and Katsina. By the end of last month at least 7000 cases had been reported, with daily admissions to Kano's hospital almost trebling.

    A 10 person team from Medecins sans Frontieres is already working with the sick in Kano, and further volunteers were due to arrive this week. The agency has launched an international appeal for its pounds sterling2.5m emergency medical assistance programme, saying: “The assistance programme will be carried out in close collaboration with the federal ministry of health and will consist of a vaccination campaign for about two million people in the worst affected areas and care for 15000 people.”

    At the Nigeria High Commission in London the head of information, Grant Ehiobuche, said: “The government is making every effort to contain the spread of the disease and to bring in the necessary supplies.”

    In Nigeria health minister Ikechukwu Maduboke called the epidemic a disaster and added: “If it continues next week we will declare a state of emergency.”—CLAUDIA COURT, BMJ

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