Global Alert and Response (GAR)

2001 - Meningococcal disease in the African Meningitis Belt

20 February 2001

Disease Outbreak Reported

The highest number of cases and the highest burden of this disease occur in sub-Saharan Africa in an area that is referred to as the meningitis belt.   This is the area between Senegal and Ethiopia and includes all or part of at least 15 countries, with an estimated total population of approximately 300 million. Epidemics occur in seasonal cycles between the end of November and the end of June, depending on the location and climate of the country and declines rapidly with the arrival of the rainy season.

WHO has reported a total number of 603 cases, including 45 deaths (case-fatality rate of 7.5%) in 4 départements in the north of  Benin: Alibori, Borgou, Atacora and Donga, since January 2001.  Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A has been confirmed. The Ministry of Health has initiated a mass vaccination campaign in these départements.

From 25 December 2000 to 15 February 2001, a total of 798 cases and 83 deaths (case-fatality rate of 10.4%) has been reported by WHO in 2 préfectures in southwestern Chad: Moyen-Chari and Longone Occidental. Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A has been confirmed. A mass vaccination campaign is underway.

As of 30 January 2001, WHO has reported an outbreak of meningocccal disease in Ethiopia in 5 regions: Amhara, Gambella, Somali, Tigray and Southern regions, with a total of 485 cases and 61 deaths.  Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A has been confirmed. The Ministry of Health has reinforced surveillance and is carrying out vaccinations in the affected areas.  The media is also providing health education messages.

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