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DR Congo confirms meningitis outbreak

In the northeastern province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, 261 suspected cases of meningitis and 129 related deaths were…

In the northeastern province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, 261 suspected cases of meningitis and 129 related deaths were reported on September 7, representing a case-fatality rate of 50 percent.Confirmatory tests conducted by the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France, detected meningococcus in Tshopo. 

This is one of the most common meningitis-causing bacterias and has the potential to cause large-scale epidemics.

The DRC has declared an outbreak of the disease in this area, according to a press release from the regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO) seen by APA on Wednesday.

Several patients are already receiving treatment at home and in health facilities in Banalia district. 

The health authorities have deployed a first emergency response team and, with the support of WHO, efforts “are underway to rapidly implement the response.”

A response committee has been set up in Banalia, where the affected community is located, as well as in Kisangani, the capital of Tshopo, the goal being to accelerate efforts to control the outbreak.

“Meningitis is a serious infection and a major public health challenge. We are acting quickly, mobilizing drugs and expertise to support the government to control the outbreak as quickly as possible,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

The disease is transmitted through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions from infected people. 

Close and prolonged contact or close cohabitation with an infected person facilitates its spread. 

Although people of all ages can contract the disease, it mainly affects babies, children and young people, the UN agency explains.

Yet in 2016, more than 1.6 million people between the ages of 1 and 29 were vaccinated in a mass campaign in Tshopo. 

This region is located in the African meningitis belt stretching from Senegal to Ethiopia and across 26 countries.

In the world, the African meningitis belt is the most vulnerable to recurrent outbreaks, according to the WHO. 

It recalls that meningitis epidemics have occurred in several provinces of the DR Congo in the past. 

In 2009, an epidemic in Kisangani infected 214 people and caused 15 deaths, with a case fatality rate of 8 percent.

“We are strengthening surveillance in the community and rapidly investigating suspected cases in neighboring communities to treat patients and contain widespread infections,” said Amedee Prosper Djiguimde, WHO Country Office Officer in DR Congo.

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