DRC – The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) wiped out a four-month meningitis outbreak while national resources were stretched due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as per the World Health Organization’s press release.
A total of 2,662 cases and 205 deaths were recorded, representing a fatality rate of 7.7 percent, a significant improvement from the 50% recorded at the start of the outbreak.
The DRC declared a meningitis outbreak in the north-eastern Tshopo Province in early September 2021. Initially, 261 suspected cases and 129 deaths were recorded, representing a case fatality ratio of 50%.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that the pandemic had been eradicated following a robust public health initiative.
“To bring the outbreak under control, the national and provincial health authorities with support from the World Health Organization mounted a robust response in a challenging context (Covid-19 pandemic), swiftly setting up local health emergency management teams, bolstering disease surveillance, carrying out vaccination drives and providing medical care, including through mobile clinics,” the WHO said in a statement.
It went on to say that the measures aided in lowering the case fatality ratio, or the proportion of deaths among confirmed cases.
Meningitis is an infection that is usually caused by a virus, but it can also be caused by bacteria or fungi. Headache, fever, and stiff neck are among the symptoms.
“Meningitis can cause devastating outbreaks. It strikes fast and is lethal,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa.
Dr. Jean-Jacques Mbungan, Minister of Health, Hygiene, and Prevention, stated that the recent outbreak had ended because no new cases had been reported in weeks.
He stated: “Considering that there have been no infections for several weeks and the attack rate has fallen below the alert threshold for two consecutive weeks, I am happy to declare the end of the meningitis epidemic in the area.”
While a pandemic was declared in September, WHO data show that infections can be traced back to early June in two iron ore mining areas in Banalia, a district in Tshopo Province.
Meningitis outbreaks are common in the area because the province is located in what the WHO refers to as the “African meningitis belt.”
“The African meningitis belt … runs across the continent from Senegal to Ethiopia and comprises 26 countries. The African meningitis belt is the most vulnerable globally to recurrent outbreaks,” WHO said in its statement.
WHO and its partners launched a global strategy to eradicate meningitis by 2030 in September.
“The plan aims to eliminate epidemics of bacterial meningitis – the deadliest form of the disease – and to reduce deaths by 70% and halve the number of cases. It is estimated that the strategy could save more than 200 000 lives globally every year and significantly reduce disability caused by the disease,” said the organization.