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WHO, ongoing epidemic of diphtheria and meningitis in Nigeria – Medicine

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WHO, ongoing epidemic of diphtheria and meningitis in Nigeria – Medicine

(ANSA) – ROME, APRIL 28 – Two serious epidemics of diphtheria and meningitis are underway in Nigeria. Since the beginning of the year, diphtheria has counted 1,439 suspected cases and 73 deaths; that of meningitis, since October 2022, 1,686 suspected cases and 124 deaths. This was announced by the World Health Organization.

The diphtheria outbreak, initially reported in December, peaked at 150 weekly cases in late January. Since then the number of cases has started to decline, even if the epidemic has not yet died down. At the moment, infections have been reported in 21 of the 36 Nigerian states. “Coverage with the third dose of vaccine in Nigeria is suboptimal,” WHO writes. “It was 57% in 2021.” Furthermore, there is a lack of availability of diphtheria antitoxin for the timely treatment of the disease.

Equally serious is the situation of meningitis: “the highest proportion of cases is among children aged between 1 and 15”, reports the WHO, which recalls how the northern part of Nigeria falls within what is defined as the “meningitis belt”, a band that cuts Africa from east to west and where meningitis is endemic.

Also with regard to meningitis, WHO underlines how the low vaccination coverage, which was 50% in 2021, favors the emergence of epidemics. The situation in the country is also worrying: “it is currently grappling with various public health emergencies such as Lassa fever, cholera, mpox, meningitis and a humanitarian emergency in the north-east of the country. Due to insecurity, especially in the north-east of Nigeria, vaccination coverage remains sub-optimal, especially in areas controlled by non-state armed groups,” says WHO, which has not recommended restrictions on travel or trade with Nigeria at the moment. (HANDLE).

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