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BURKINA FASO: Mass vaccination campaign as scores die of meningitis
Survivors of meningitis may suffer from brain damage and learning disabilities
OUAGADOUGOU, 14 February 2007 (IRIN) - Some 1,300 people have been infected with meningitis in Burkina Faso so far this year and 142 of them have died, according to the Ministry of Health.
In a statement on Tuesday the ministry said it had already launched a mass vaccination campaign in the eastern district of Ouargaye, which had an outbreak above the epidemic threshold of 10 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
Authorities were also planning a vaccination campaign in Banfora district in the west of Burkina Faso where meningitis is also at epidemic levels.
Six other districts in the “alert” phase of five cases per 100,000 inhabitants are Batié, Dano (southwest) Houndé (west), Sapouy (south), Nanoro (centre-south) and Titao (north).
Burkina Faso is in West Africa’s meningitis "belt", which stretches across the semi-arid Sahel region from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east. Every year between December and June sand storms combined with seasonal respiratory infections trigger outbreaks of meningitis. The bacteria are transmitted through respiratory secretions, such as sneezing or coughing, and direct contact with infected people.
The infection attacks the brain and spinal cord. Common symptoms are a stiff neck, high fever, sensitivity to light, confusion, headaches and vomiting. Between five and 10 percent of infected people typically die within 24 and 48 hours, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The illness can be treated with antibiotics but early detection is key to recovery. Survivors may have brain damage, hearing loss or learning disabilities.
In addition to emergency measures, the Burkina Faso government said it is planning to spend US$1.5 million to vaccinate another 189 million people deemed at “high risk”.
Last year, 20,000 people caught meningitis in Burkina Faso, of whom 1,600 died. Across Africa, meningitis kills tens of thousands of people every year, and around 250,000 will be infected, according to the WHO.
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