Meningitis outbreak over in Nigeria

Gloria Essien, Abuja

The 2016/2017 Meningitis outbreak in Nigeria is over and the Emergency Operations Centre, EOC responding to the epidemic has been stepped down.

This was announced by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC in Abuja.

According to the NCDC, “The outbreak has been in constant decline for eight weeks and the affected States have recorded much fewer new cases. In the last four weeks, no Local Government Area has reached outbreak alert threshold. By the 16th of June 2017 when the EOC was stepped down, a total of 14,518 suspected cases of meningitis were reported from 25 states, with 1,166 deaths, giving a case fatality rate of 8%”.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control said that it worked assiduously with the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, NPHCDA and partner organisations  to reduce the impact of the outbreak on affected communities.

Emergency Response
According to the National Coordinator and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, “While NCDC has stepped down the Emergency response, the work never stops – we will continue to work 24/7 to ensure the protection of all Nigerians against infectious disease threats. We recognise our leadership, the Honorable Ministers of Health and the leadership of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency for the joint support during the outbreak.

The NCDC established a National Emergency Operations Centre which coordinated the national outbreak response.  This included the deployment of Rapid Response Teams (RRT) to the most affected States to strengthen surveillance, case management, laboratory capacity and risk communication“.

He said that the planning process to prevent future outbreaks and ensuring better preparedness for the next epidemic season has begun.

Dr Ihekweazu noted that laboratory capacity has been improved with the recent operation of the new National Reference Laboratory in Gaduwa, Abuja with support from the Federal Ministry of Health, the US CDC and the World Health Organisation.

National Guidelines
He said the NCDC is also coordinating a network of laboratories across Nigeria to improve case confirmation capacity, while National guidelines towards responding to future outbreaks are being developed together with ongoing continuous awareness campaigns.

Also, workshops to improve preparedness are also being organised and Reactive vaccination campaigns led by the NPHCDA were successfully conducted in Zamfara, Sokoto, Yobe and Katsina States.

The state governments are also nvolved in conducting these campaigns to ensure that the vaccines reached the most at-risk population.

“We are very grateful to the Government of Zamfara and Sokoto States for their excellent leadership during the outbreak. We also thank our partners including the World Health Organisation, Africa Centre for Disease Control, as well as the US Centers for Disease Control and its implementing partners – African Field Epidemiology Network and the University of Maryland Baltimore – for their generous support in the implementation of outbreak response activities”. Dr Ihekweazu added.

Confidence Okwuchi