Africa

Meningococcal Disease Kills 4 in North-western Liberia

A Joint Situational Report issued on Wednesday by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) says that a total of nine cases of Meningococcal Disease has been reported in the northwest of the West African country of Liberia.

Map of Guinea-Liberia-Sierra Leone in West Africa

Map of Guinea-Liberia-Sierra Leone in West Africa

The report say there have been 4 deaths as of January 23, 2018 but no new cases have been reported since January 24th. The report says Neisseria Meningitides sero-group W had been found in samples in two of three cases in Foya District, Lofa County Liberia.

According to the report, “…Fourteen new contacts were identified on January 23, 2018. In total, 239 contacts have been identified and listed and are under follow-up. 213, which is about 89% of the contacts have received chemoprophylaxis (ciprofloxacin 500mg, single dose)…”

This an antibiotic which is administered to treat the disease.

The report further disclosed that a total of 5 case patients have been admitted for treatment and 2 have been treated and discharged while 3 others are still undergoing medical treatment.

28 health care workers have undergone refresher training in case management of the Meningococcol infection in the area and community members in Foya have been given orientation on the simple identification of the disease while community surveillance has been increased.

The U.S based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says, the bacteria called Neisseria Meningitidis cause meningococcal disease. About 1 in 10 people have these bacteria in the back of their nose and throat with no signs or symptoms of disease; this is called being ‘a carrier’. But sometimes the bacteria invade the body and cause certain illnesses, which are known as meningococcal disease, the CDC says.

Spread of the Disease: 

The CDC notes that in the spread of the meningococcal disease …”People spread meningococcal bacteria to other people by sharing respiratory and throat secretions (saliva or spit). Generally, it takes close (for example, coughing or kissing) or lengthy contact to spread these bacteria. Fortunately, they are not as contagious as germs that cause the common cold or the flu.

People do not catch them through casual contact or by breathing air where someone with meningococcal disease has been. Sometimes the bacteria spread to people who have had close or lengthy contact with a patient with meningococcal disease. Those at increased risk of getting sick include:

  1. People who live with the patient

2. Anyone with direct contact with the patient’s oral secretions, such as a boyfriend or girlfriend

According to the report, Ebola (RT-PCR), Lassa Fever (RT-PCR), yellow fever (serology-IgM) and typhoid (WIDAL) have been ruled out in specimens collected from some of the human cases.

CDC -Ebola workers

Ebola Workers

An Ebola outbreak in the West African sub-region in 2014-2015 killed over 11,300 in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea and there are about 10,000 Ebola survivors in the region, according to WHO data.

The  Ebola outbreak laid bare the glaring inadequacy of health facilities and personnel in the three countries.

Medical observers say no major programs have been implemented to address the woeful lack of national health programs in the three countries and there are fears that another pandemic outbreak will devastate the poverty stricken populations.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine