More than 160,000 people vaccinated against meningitis in DR Congo

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More than 160,000 people in Banalia in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s north-eastern Tshopo Province have been vaccinated against meningitis, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

In September, authorities in the DR Congo declared an outbreak of meningitis in the province where 261 suspected cases and 129 deaths had been reported.

Neisseria meningitidis, one of the most frequent types of bacterial meningitis with the potential to cause large epidemics, was detected following tests run by the Institut Pasteur in the French capital Paris.

Tshopo, lies in the African meningitis belt that runs across the continent from Senegal to Ethiopia and includes 26 countries. The African meningitis belt, where bacterial meningitis is endemic, is the most vulnerable globally to recurrent outbreaks, according to the UN global health agency.

Meningitis affects people of all ages, particularly babies, children and young people. It is potentially fatal and is a medical emergency. Admission for treatment is necessary and appropriate antibiotic treatment must be started as soon as possible.

The WHO said it will continue to support efforts to bring the outbreak in Bana under control, including vaccine rollout, cases management and strengthening surveillance.

The DR Congo’s regions have been hit by a number of meningitis outbreaks in the past; in 2009, an outbreak in Kisangani, the capital of Tshopo, infected 214 people and caused 15 deaths.

Between January and August this year, the DR Congo reported a cumulative total of 3,842 suspected cases including 189 deaths, according to data from the WHO.

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