An outbreak of meningitis in Nigeria has killed 489 people this year, according to recently released figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO). The country’s Center for Disease Control reported 4,637 suspected cases of cerebrospinal meningitis. The agency has cautioned that a new strain of the disease, called ‘stereotype C’, has developed and there were not enough vaccines to treat it. Their chief executive, Chikwe Ihekweazu, told CNN that there is a vaccine but it is not commercially available for this particular stereotype, which means that they must apply to the World Health Organisation for these vaccines. In a press release the Health Minister, Professor Isaac Adewole, claimed that 1.3 million vaccines had been acquired, including 500,000 doses of meningococcal vaccine provided by the WHO.
The WHO have also reported that a further 820,000 units have been donated by the British government. Nigeria is one of 26 countries sitting on the ‘meningitis belt’, experiencing some of the highest incidence rates of the disease on the continent. Outbreaks usually stem from the dry season, as the humidity is low and conditions are dusty. WHO statistics indicate that, even with early diagnosis and treatment, 5-10 per cent of patients usually die within 24-48 hours of initial onset symptoms.