Global Alert and Response (GAR)

2000 - Meningococcal disease in Ethiopia - Update

10 April 2000

Disease Outbreak Reported

In the Amhara region (estimated population, 198 000), the health authorities have now confirmed a revised total of 70 cases (with 3 deaths) in Kobo Woreda (northern Wollo) between 1 January and 31 March 2000. Cases are being treated at the Alamata hospital and all 29 specimens analysed yielded Neisseria meningitidis serogroup C sensitive to chloramphenicol, penicillin, erythromycin and tetracycline. Part of the response strategy included vaccination of the target population aged 2-35 years; 36 500 people were vaccinated between 28 February and 12 March. No further cases have been reported. This is the second year the Kobo area has been affected. In 1999, a total of 269 cases (with 9 deaths) was recorded. Epidemic response had included vaccinating 60 500 people with polysaccharide A+C meningococcal vaccine.

In the Tigray region, the number of cases rose in the first week of February in villages along the main road between Kobo, Alamata and Mekele. Up to 12 March 2000, a total of 47 cases (with 6 deaths) was reported (case-fatality rate, 12%). Specimens analysed have yielded N. meningitidis serogroup C. Patients in hospital were treated with IV chloramphenicol on the basis of clinical assessments. In all, 35 200 people aged 2-35 years were vaccinated in early March. During 1999, a total of 7 cases (no deaths) was notified in the same area (where 4 000 people had been vaccinated).

The Gambella region, near the border with Sudan, has reported 32 cases (with 5 deaths) due to N. meningitidis serogroup A. Vaccinations are proceeding.

The national health authority has prepared a national plan for preparedness and response to the epidemic and is discussing it with all partners.

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