Meningitis: Death toll now 85
The strain of pneumococcal meningitis has so far claimed 85 lives out of the 456 cases recorded in the country.
The Minister of Health, Mr Alex Segbefia, who gave the statistics in a statement on the floor of Parliament Thursday, said the Brong Ahafo Region had recorded the highest number of deaths of 45 out of 288 cases reported.
The Northern Region, which had 58 cases, had recorded the second highest number of deaths of 19.
Forty-three cases had been reported in the Upper West Region, with eight deaths, while the Ashanti Region had 17 cases, with six deaths.
The Greater Accra Region had recorded four cases, with two deaths; Eastern, two cases, with two deaths; Upper East, 35 cases, with one death; Volta, seven cases, with one death, and Western, two cases, with one death.
There has been no reported case of the deadly disease in the Central Region.
Last week Thursday, Mr Segbefia was reported to have told the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health that 50 people had died as a result of the disease across the country. He said there had been 246 reported cases as of that time.
Mr Segbefia told the House that health professionals, supported by officials from district assemblies and the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), were on the ground to contain the disease.
Besides, he said, health professionals had been re-oriented to the management of meningitis, while the government had provided funds and 7,500 vials of antibiotics for health workers.
The minister said he had directed that MoH mobile health vans be redirected to the affected communities to support interventions.
Additionally, the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) was leading efforts to determine the exact serotype of bacteria causing the disease. It is being supported by the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research and the Medical Research Council of The Gambia.
The causative agent for pneumococcal meningitis is streptococcus pnuemoniae. otherwise known as pneumococcus.
The Northern, Upper West and Upper East regions and their neighbouring districts in the Brong Ahafo and the Volta regions lie in the meningitis belt of Africa where the condition is endemic.
The belt spans Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east. Countries in the belt experience a number of meningitis cases annually, with periodic spikes during the harmattan.
As a deviation, the cases of meningitis this year were first reported in the Brong Ahafo Region, where it has assumed the dimension of an outbreak.
Therefore, the Minister of Health said, the ministry was most concerned because the outbreak “started in areas that are not commonly affected and the causative agent is observed behaving quite differently”.
He said although there had been previous reports indicating outbreaks of pneumococcus, they were rare occurrences which required many more in-depth laboratory studies on the type the country was dealing with.
Mr Segbefia said currently 216 districts across the nine regions had not experienced an epidemic of meningitis and indicated that “we can define what is happening now as an outbreak, which is an occurrence of a disease in excess of the normal”.
He said epidemiologically, an epidemic of meningitis was said to occur under two scenarios based on the number of cases reported in a week for a specified population.
“A number of activities in the areas of surveillance, case management, laboratory testing, coordination, advocacy and social mobilisation are ongoing across the country and these are beginning to yield fruits,” he said.
Contributing to the statement, the Majority Chief Whip and MP for Asawase, Alhaji Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, urged health professionals to be extra vigilant in the diagnosis and treatment of meningitis.
He asked the MoH to assist health centres to acquire test kits which could diagnose meningitis within 30 minutes to ensure swift detection and treatment.
The MP for Wa West, Mr Joseph Yileh Kyireh, urged the government to support the establishment of laboratories in districts to facilitate laboratory tests for meningitis and other diseases.
The MP for Offinso North, Mr Augustine Collins Ntim, said the increasing death rate from meningitis was worrying and called for extra effort to arrest the situation.