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Thousands dead from meningitis

7th May 2007

Burkina Faso, formerly known as Upper Volta, has reported nearly 1,500 deaths from meningococcal disease since the beginning of the year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

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From January 1 to April 8, the Ministry of Health of Burkina Faso reported 22,255 suspected cases including 1,490 deaths from the disease, the UN agency said in a statement on its website.

There was a case-fatality rate of 7%, it said.

Thirty-four districts of the country are currently considered to be over the epidemic threshold.
Cerebrospinal fluid specimens from all affected areas have tested positive for Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A by latex test and/or culture, it added.

A vaccination campaign has been launched, and completed in 15 districts, where 2.7 million have now received immunisation, 100% of the targeted population.

This includes one million people in the capital, Ouagadougou, WHO said, adding that vaccination campaigns were continuing in a further six districts.

WHO said the international community had responded positively to a call for funding for the immunisation drive, with a number of humanitarian and healthcare agencies donating money.

The money received from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO), Medicos del Mundo, Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), Plan Burkina, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), UNICEF, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) would enable Burkina Faso to finance all necessary vaccination campaigns, WHO said.

Meningococcal disease, also referred to as cerebrospinal meningitis is a contagious bacterial disease caused by Neisseria meningitidis.

It is spread by person-to-person contact through respiratory droplets of infected people. It takes three forms: the meningeal syndrome; the septic form and pneumonia.

The onset of symptoms is sudden and death can follow within hours. As many as 10-15% of survivors suffer lasting hearing loss, speech disorders, loss of limbs, mental retardation and paralysis.

 

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