Meningitis Outbreak in Nigeria: What You Need to Know

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Meningitis Outbreak

"Meningitis is an inflammation (swelling) of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord known as the meninges. This inflammation is usually caused by an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis is usually caused by bacteria or viruses, but can be a result of injury, cancer, or certain drugs." – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Nigeria and a number of West African countries are currently experiencing an outbreak of Cerebrospinal Meningitis (CSM). Countries in neighborhood to Nigeria where cases have been recorded include Niger, Chad, Cameroun, Togo, and Burkina Faso. According to the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), the situation in Nigeria as at 31st of March, 2017 reveals that 90 Local Government Areas in 16 States are so far affected. The states include Zamfara where the current outbreak started in November 2016, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Nassarawa, and Jigawa. Others are FCT, Gombe, Taraba, Yobe, Kano, Osun, Cross-rivers, Lagos and Plateau. Not less than 2,524 people have been affected, with at least 328 fatalities.

The treatment of meningitis varies with specific causative agents. Basically, vaccines are available to protect against the scourge of bacteria and viral meningitis. The bacterium responsible for the epidemic in Nigeria, even from the historical times is neisseria meningitides type A which has been largely curtailed by administering a conjugate vaccine known as MenAficVac-A. But this year, the country is recording neisseria meningitides type C for which the vaccine is not available in commercial quantity. Globally, the bacterium has been identified to present six serogroups, A, B, C, Y, W-135, and X which are responsible for virtually all cases of the disease in humans.


The most common symptoms or cerebrospinal meningitis, according to Wikipedia are

  • fever
  • headache
  • neck stiffness
  • confusion or altered consciousness
  • vomiting, and
  • inability to tolerate light or loud noises

Young children often come down with nonspecific symptoms, such as irritability, drowsiness, or poor feeding.

Mode of Infection

Generally, the germs that cause bacteria meningitis spread from person to person by sharing respiratory or throat secretions (saliva or spit). The exposure condition for such exchange could be through sneezing, coughing or kissing. It could also be during a lengthy contact (living together) with an infected person or a career.


Due to the life-threatening characteristics of meningitis, the condition has rightly been classified as medical emergency. However, it is better to prevent the scourge from occurring or protect yourself from getting infected. Ways of prevention as outlined in a public advisory by the Federal Ministry of Health include

  • Avoid overcrowding
  • Sleep in well ventilated places
  • Avoidance of close and prolonged contact with a case/s
  • Proper disposal of respiratory and throat secretions
  • Strict observance of hand hygiene and sneezing into Elbow joint/sleeves
  • Reduce hand shaking, kissing, sharing utensils or medical interventions such as mouth resuscitation
  • Vaccination with relevant sero-type of the meningococcal vaccine
  • Avoid self-medication

The honorable minster of health, Prof Isaac Adewole has assured Nigerians that his ministry will nip the outbreak in the bud. He calls upon the general public to remain calm as the disease is both preventable and curable. FMOH is already collaborating with all the affected states on massive awareness, sensitization, laboratory investigation & analysis, proper documentation and disease surveillance techniques through the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) and National Primary Health Care Development Authority (NPHCDA). Constant interactions with the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, E-health Africa and other international agencies for supplies of vaccines and injections are ongoing.

All public sector hospitals (secondary and tertiary hospitals) have been directed to provide free treatment for all cases of Cerebrospinal Meningitis. In case you notice symptoms that resemble the aforementioned, do not hesitate to promptly present the case at a nearby health care center.

Details of the public advisory from the Federal Ministry of Health, signed by the Director of Media and Public Relations, Boade Akinola could gotten here in pdf format.

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2 comments on “Meningitis Outbreak in Nigeria: What You Need to Know”

  1. Omolara Reply

    Thanks seyidipo for this information. Everyone needs to be aware about it before it spreads beyond our imagination. Please spread this information as far as you can. Thanks once again.

    • Ade K Reply

      Useful info. Though the death toll has increased, the government through FMOH has commenced mass immunization in zamfara state. About 500,000 doses were acquired for the first phase and more are coming in through collaborative efforts with donor agency. It is important we take precaution in daily interactions within our communities so as to protect ourselves and forestall further spread.

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