The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has declared an outbreak of meningitis in the north-eastern Tshopo Province where 261 suspected cases and 129 deaths.
“A high case fatality ratio of 50 percent has been reported,” the World Health Organization stated.
Confirmatory tests carried out by the Institut Pasteur in Paris detected Neisseria meningitis, one of the most frequent types of bacterial meningitis with the potential to cause large epidemics.
WHO further stated that a crisis response committee has been set up in Banalia, the community affected by the outbreak, as well as in Kisangani, the capital of Tshopo, to accelerate the outbreak control efforts.
“Meningitis is a serious infection and a major public health challenge. We are moving fast, delivering medicines and deploying experts to support the government’s efforts to bring the outbreak under control in the shortest possible time,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
More than 100 patients are already receiving treatment at home and in health centers in Banalia.
Meningitis is transmitted among people through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions from infected people.
Close and prolonged contact or living in close quarters with an infected person facilitates the spread of the disease. Although people of all ages can catch the disease, it mainly affects babies, children and young people.
More than 1.6 million people aged between 1 and 29 years were vaccinated in a massive campaign in 2016 in Tshopo, which lies in the African meningitis belt that runs across the continent from Senegal to Ethiopia and comprises 26 countries.
The African meningitis belt is the most vulnerable globally to recurrent outbreaks.
Meningitis outbreaks have occurred in several provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the past. In 2009, an outbreak in Kisangani infected 214 people and killed 15.