Global Alert and Response (GAR)

2000 - Meningococcal disease in Ethiopia

17 August 2000

Disease Outbreak Reported

As of 17 August, a total of 855 cases and 19 deaths has been reported in Addis Ababa since the beginning of the current outbreak of meningococcal disease, which began in March 2000. Neisseria meningitidis serogroups A (90%) and C (10%) have been detected using latex agglutination tests in 311 of the patients.  The age group most affected is < 30 years.  According to available data, no major outbreaks had been reported in Addis Ababa since 1989.

Ethiopia is in the African meningitis belt, and is regularly affected by both the endemic and epidemic forms of the disease. Outbreaks have been recorded since 1935. The most recent major outbreak affecting the whole country occurred in 1988-1989, with nearly 50 000 cases and 990 deaths, and an overall attack rate of 133 per 100 000. A major outbreak is anticipated in 1999-2000, and the regions of Amhara, Gambella and Tigray experienced an increase in the number of cases reported in March-April 2000.

Regional health authorities are conducting active surveillance in public and private health facilities, and committees are ensuring community surveillance. Cases are managed at hospital level by IV antibiotics (penicillin and chloramphenicol). The Ministry of Health has some stocks of oily chloramphenicol, but stock levels need to be carefully monitored.

Mass immunization in Addis Ababa is under way with 1 000 000 people vaccinated to date, and external support may be needed depending on the evolution of outbreak.