By G9ija

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has joined the global community to welcome the launch of the global roadmap to defeat meningitis by 2030.

The Director-General, NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday, in Abuja, that  the launch of the roadmap by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Sept.28 illustrated the significant commitment towards meningitis control.

Ihekweazu said that this was especially critical for Nigeria, as meningitis remained a major public health challenge.

“The global road map sets out a plan to tackle the main causes of acute bacterial meningitis, through three strategic goals: eliminating epidemics of bacterial meningitis; reducing cases of vaccine preventable bacterial meningitis by 50% and deaths by 70%; and reducing disability and improve quality of life after meningitis of any cause,” he said.

The NCDC noted that although Nigeria had implemented interventions, including the introduction of the meningitis A conjugate vaccine in the routine immunisation schedule, the country records annual large outbreaks of meningitis.

“Since the 2016/2017 meningitis outbreak in Nigeria that led to over 1,160 deaths, NCDC has continued to work closely with states, within the meningitis belt. With support from WHO and partners, our support is towards strengthening preparedness, detection and response to meningitis.

“Some of the interventions led by NCDC include the training of clinicians on case management of meningitis and lumbar puncture to increase the rate of confirmation of cases.

“Additionally, NCDC has coordinated the establishment and operationalisation of a network of laboratories, with the capacity to confirm cerebrospinal meningitis.

“To enable this, NCDC continues to support human resource training, provision of medical and laboratory supplies, development and dissemination of disease guidelines, among other activities,” he said.

He disclosed that in 2021, the agency began a pilot study in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), WHO and the University College London.

“This is to develop approaches that can increase diagnostic yield of confirmed meningitis and enable early detection of outbreaks.

“Given Nigeria’s experience with annual outbreaks of meningitis, we remain committed to contributing to global research and development.

“The successful implementation of the global strategy to defeat meningitis will depend on strong political commitment and a whole-of-society approach at the country, regional and global level.

“As the agency with the mandate to lead the prevention, detection and control to disease outbreaks, NCDC remains committed to working with states, WHO, and other partners, in implementing the roadmap to defeat meningitis by 2030 in Nigeria and globally.

“This is in close coordination with the Federal Ministry of Health, National Primary Health Care Development Agency and other government institutions.

 ” Cerebrospinal Meningitis (CSM) is a priority epidemic-prone disease with cases reported all year round in Nigeria,” Ihekweazu said.

He stressed that the highest burden occurs in the part of sub-Saharan Africa, known as the “Meningitis Belt”. In Nigeria, the belt covers all the 19 northern states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

He urged Nigerians to be aware of the danger posed by meningitis and adhere to the known preventive measures.

NAN recalls that in Nigeria, cerebrospinal meningitis is recorded all year round, the disease has predilection for dry season, with peak between January and May.

It is characterised by acute severe infection of the central nervous system causing inflammation of the meninges with associated morbidity and mortality.

The most common symptoms and signs are fever, headache, nausea and vomiting, photophobia (sensitivity to light), neck stiffness and altered consciousness, confusion or difficulty in concentrating, seizures, sleeplessness or difficulty waking.

Infants may experience irritability, meningism, neck stiffness, bulging fontanelle, excess sleep, fast breathing, fast heart rate, poor feeding, sluggishness.

Transmission is through direct person-to-person contact, including droplets from the nose and throat of infected persons.

Transmission is facilitated by close and prolonged contact (such as sneezing and coughing), smoking, overcrowding, while certain climatic conditions like dry season, cold nights, and associated upper respiratory tract infections, combine to damage the lining of the nasopharynx.