In 2013, the number of cases of meningitis A in Africa’s meningitis belt, 16 sub-Saharan countries stretching from Gambia in the west to Ethiopia in the east, stood at four. Compare that to just a few years ago, when the disease was responsible for thousands of deaths each year across the region: in 1996-97 alone, an epidemic infected more than 250,000 people and caused 25,000 deaths. The remarkable turnaround is down to a mass vaccination programme that since 2010 has seen over 220 million people under the age of 30 immunised. The numbers speak for themselves: 2009 – 1,994 cases; 2010 – 430 cases; 2011 – 111 cases; 2012 – 49 cases; 2013 – four cases. Dr Marie-Pierre Preziosi from the World Health Organization said “The disease has virtually disappeared from this part of the world”. Far from resting on their laurels however the experts want to see further immunisation programmes introduced, particularly those targeting newborns, to ensure the disease does not rear its ugly head again in the future. Then of course there are the other types of meningitis to tackle. Much work therefore remains to be done but eradicating meningitis A is a great start. A grade work.
January 24, 2016