The meningococcal meningitis epidemic in Niger is ongoing and the number of new cases has increased in the last three weeks. As of 3 May 2015, a total of 3304 cases including 252 deaths have been reported by the epidemic surveillance and response director. A delivery of 300 000 doses of meningitis vaccine has arrived in Niger and is being distributed. This is around half the number of vaccines requested by the authorities; it has been estimated that 1.8 million doses are required to end the epidemic.
Meningitis vaccine is also being supplied to neighbouring Nigeria where an outbreak is ongoing in the north of the country.
In the past weeks the mortality rate in Niger has declined due to greater availabilty of antibiotics for the treatment of patients.
In a separate report, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) operating in Niger state that since January 2015, a total of 5273 cases including 352 deaths have been recorded by the health authorities. One of the worst affected areas is the capital Niamey, with almost 1200 hospital admissions in one week alone, however, recently the daily rate has reduced from 160 to 100. MSF, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, is providing almost 430 beds for free medical care for patients.
As there appears to be a shortage of vaccines available globally, MSF is prioritising the diagnosis and treatment of patients in order to reduce morbidity and mortality.
Various strains of meningococcal meningitis have been identfied in this epidemic; this is the first time that meningitis W135 and C infections have occurred on this scale in Niger.
Advice for Travellers
In Niger, the meningococcal season generally runs from Dec-Jun. Immunisation is available for those considered to be at risk:
- Travellers who are likely to have close, prolonged contact with the local population.
- Long stay travellers.
- Those visiting friends and relatives.
- Those who will be exposed to crowded areas (e.g. stadia, schools, hospitals).
- Travellers visiting an area affected by an ongoing outbreak or epidemic.