Confirmatory tests carried out by the Institute Pasteur in Paris detected Neisseria meningitidis – one of the most frequent types of bacterial meningitis with the potential to cause large epidemics.
Democratic Republic of the Congo has declared a meningitis outbreak in the North-Eastern Tshopo Province where 261 suspected
cases and 129 deaths—a high case fatality ratio of 50%—have been reported.
Confirmatory tests carried out by the Institute
Pasteur in Paris detected Neisseria meningitidis – one of the most frequent
types of bacterial meningitis with the potential to cause large epidemics. Putting countries like
Uganda that is in the meningitis belt on high alert, the World Health
Organization said in a statement on Wednesday that efforts towards halting
transmission should be expedited.
“Meningitis is a serious infection and a major
public health challenge. We are moving fast, delivering medicines and deploying
experts to support the government’s efforts to bring the outbreak under control
in the shortest possible time,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health
Organization Regional Director for Africa.
More than 100 patients are already receiving
treatment at home and in health centres in Banalia. Meningitis is transmitted
among people through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions from infected
people. Close and prolonged contact or living in close quarters with an
infected person facilitates the spread of the disease. Although people of all
ages can catch the disease, it mainly affects babies, children and young
“We are scaling up control measures within the
community and rapidly investigating suspected cases in surrounding localities
to treat patients and curb potentially widespread infections,” said Dr Amédée
Prosper Djiguimdé, WHO Representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
in a statement on Wednesday.
More than 1.6 million people aged between 1 and 29
years were vaccinated in a massive campaign in 2016 in Tshopo, which lies in
the African meningitis belt that runs across the continent from Senegal to
Ethiopia and comprises 26 countries. The African meningitis belt is the most
vulnerable globally to recurrent outbreaks.
Meningitis outbreaks have occurred in several
provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the past. In 2009, an outbreak
in Kisangani infected 214 people and caused 15 deaths—a case fatality ratio of
8%. Meningitis is potentially fatal and is a medical
Admission for treatment is necessary and appropriate antibiotic
treatment must be started as soon as possible. Over the years, major
improvements have been made on vaccines, which are specific to the type of
In November 2020, the World Health Assembly—the
global health policy-setting body—approved a roadmap for a meningitis-free
world by 2030, with three key objectives: elimination of bacterial meningitis,
reduction of vaccine-preventable bacterial meningitis by 50% and deaths by 70%,
as well as reduction of disability and improvement of quality of life after