Recently, the Northern governors and traditional rulers held an emergency stakeholders meeting in Kaduna with the Minister of Health and development partners to re-strategising on how to tame the cerebrospinal meningitis outbreak in the region. In this piece, MSUE AZA,writes on the soar of meningitis epidemic which 489 infected people as of last count have died and more than 4,637 are infected especially in the North West zone.
Many are expressing worry over the outbreak of cerebrospinal meningitis in some Northern states which if not properly managed would bring another round of health crisis in the country.
According to health experts,meningitis is an acute inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord caused by an infection with microorganisms,which killed many in Nigeria mostly children under the age of five to 14.
Its known that, meningitis symptoms include, severe headache, stiff neck, fever, rash, delirium or a vacant stare, nausea, vomiting and sometimes seizures.Although,it the symptoms may vary.
Unfortunately,the outbreak had killed 489 persons in Sokoto, Zamfara, Kabbi, Niger and Katsina State, just as 4,637 suspected cases have been recorded,according to National Coordinator of Nigeria Center for Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu.
Experts have identified global inadequate vaccine as one of the factors hindering efforts to end the meningitis C outbreak in the country.
However, the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, said the meningitis vaccination is very expensive and to effectively stop menace in Nigeria,the federal government needs to vaccinate 21 million people in the five worst hit states with about $1 billion.
Besides, early preventive measure and media enlightenment have been identified as the best drug against the disease.
Analysts noted that poor living condition and overcrowding in an environment are also responsible for the spread of the disease.
Worried by the outbreak, Northern Traditional Leaders and Governors have begun moves that may end the outbreak of Cerebrospinal Meningitis in some parts of the region.
Meanwhile, speaking during an emergency meeting of the Northern traditional leaders committee (NTLC ) on Primary Health Care delivery (PHC) and stakeholders on Cerebrospinal meningitis (CSM ) disease outbreak held in Kaduna, governor of Sokoto State,Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, said he has taken drastic efforts to curtail the epidemic which over 1,000 cases was reported in the seat of caliphate.
Kaduna State Governor,Nasir El-Rufai, said though his state has fewer suspected cases of meningitis but he is not taking the outbreak for granted.
Tambuwal,who described the meningitis as a dangerous epidemic said:“In Sokoto state, we had cases in about seven local governments. We had over 1000 cases reported and the state government had to mobilised with traditional leaders in the state and other stakeholders, particularly our development partners.
“We had collaboration with the federal ministry of health, we received over 20,000 vaccines from the federal ministry of health and we are expecting about 800,000 more vaccines, our target is to have 2 million vaccines for vaccinations to cover most of the areas.
“We have mobilised a team led by the commissioner of health. We have had challenges of drugs and challenges of health personnel as well” Tambuwal said.
On his part, Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, who expressed sadness over the killer disease,noted that type C meningitis is strange to health care professionals in their states.
El-rufai who okayed the federal government’s action against meningitis said:”The action so far taken by the federal government has slowed down the spread. Here in Kaduna state, we have 17 suspected cases across the 11 local governments with one type C case and one death”
“We have instituted measures, alongside the measures instituted by neighbouring states and with the proactive steps we have taken, we hope the epidemic will not occur in Kaduna state.
The governor added: “We have intensified surveillance and engaged in mass media enlightenment, while mobilising appropriate medicines and medical supplies in our hospitals across the state.
“Your royal highnesses, I hope at the end of this meeting, you will take this battle with the same zeal you took in the polio eradication. This meeting is timely and hopefully we will come up with strategies to combat this epidemic” said El-Rufai.
The Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, said more funds is needed to tackle the epidemic.
Adewole stressed that the state governments also need to put in more money on health:” We want the state governments to support us to revitalise the Primary Health Centre (PHC) for every political ward to have at least one PHC”
The Minister added:”We need Immunity Trust Fund to cater for immunisation, we need to put more money in health to build robust health system that is resilient. Nigeria would need to put more money on vaccine, Nigerian vaccine has been subsidised by Gavi, but in 2015 we said we are the largest economy in Africa, which means we can stand on our own. So by 20 25 Nigeria will need to fund its vaccines by itself”
“We need to put people there, community health extension workers, and to invest in routine immunisation.
“About seven million births are recorded annually; if we vaccinate all of them we would protect them from meningitis and other diseases.
“North west is our emergency zone. We need to declare public health emergency in North West, where we have robust health system, meningitis will not be a problem. Surveillance aspect, early warning system is very important call us on time. We need to look at local production of vaccines to take charge of our destiny,” Adewole said.
In his presentation on meningitis during the meeting, National Coordinator of Nigeria Center for Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, complained that the outbreak of meningitis which began in Zamfara state last year November but the center got to know about it on February 7, 2017:” they deployed along with other stakeholders a week later.489 deaths have been recorded in Sokoto, Zamfara, Kabbi, Niger and Katsina State. And 4,637 suspected cases of meningitis have also been recorded” Ihekweazu lamented.
Also speaking the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, who was represented by the Emir or Zazzau, Alhaji Shehu Idris, described the meeting as timely: “Traditional leaders in coordination with stakeholders will do everything possible to assist in ensuring appropriate medical asistance promptly to avoid future outbreak of meningitis in the North.”
The representative of World Health Organization, during the meningitis emergency meeting, Dr. Wondimagegnehu Alemu, commended the timely response of the Federal Government’s team in tackling the outbreak.
WHO said there is enough space for the other stakeholders to work with governments at the federal and state levels:”We also value the critical role of traditional leaders in promoting health, preventing diseases and encouraging compliance of people affected by the diseases. It is often said, health is wealth and none of you likes to see or have sick people. It is from that perspective I see committed leaders, officially elected, as well as traditional leaders, standing for their people”
“I am not going to go into the details, but in the past, meningitis type A was the one that ravaged most of this areas. Since you have successfully conducted the preventive vaccination, it has now shifted.
Dr. Alemu explained that:”The current type C is a new one. It has never been known to cause this magnitude of outbreak, it used to be only sporadic cases. So, that has left us with no option than to rely on few of the tools that we have including few number vaccines that are available at global level, through the strategy contingency plan. The government has applied and has received and judiciously distributed to the affected places and the vaccination has taken place. More is coming on the way”
“Now, I will like to take this opportunity as I conclude that, in as much as we are happy that the surveillance work was able to pick up, the response was very good and the timely response, particularly from all levels was commendable, but going forward, we believe that we need to spend more and invest on detection” Dr. Alemu said.