Since the pneumococcal meningitis outbreak began in Dec. 2015, Ghana health minister Alex Segbefia said in a statement on the floor of Parliament Thursday that bacterial outbreak has so far claimed 85 lives out of the 456 cases recorded in the country.
These numbers are up from a week ago when 246 cases were reported, including 50 deaths.
Brong Ahafo Region had recorded the highest number of deaths of 45 out of 288 cases reported, in the most recent update.
Also on Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) noted their support to the Ghana Health Ministry with rapid diagnostic testing kits (Pastorex), other laboratory reagents and technical support community and facility surveillance, sensitization and case management.
“Since the beginning of outbreak in 2016, WHO has supported the MOH to strengthen laboratory and health facilities’ capacity in the affected areas to diagnose and treat patients in time, thus reducing chances of people dying”, says Dr Kaluwa Owen Laws, WHO Representative for Ghana.
“To control this meningitis outbreak, government, development and civil society partners need to work together with all communities and their leaders to ensure that all suspected cases are sent to health facilities on time; meningitis is treatable”, adds Dr Kaluwa.
In December 2015, suspected cases of meningitis were reported from Tain district in Brong Ahafo Region (BAR), and in January 2016 additional cases were reported in 6 districts of Wenchi, Techiman north, Nkoranza south, Atebubu, Techniman municipal and Sene west in BAR, Bole and Sawla-Tuna-Kalba in Northern region.
Sporadic cases have also been reported in six districts in the Ashanti region including Ejisu Juabeng, Offinso municipal, Offinso north, Asante Akim Central and Adansi South. A total of 325 cases and 61 deaths (case fatality rate of 17.1%) have been reported from 10 districts of the BAR, Northern Region and Ashanti Region as at 29 January 2016.
Streptococcus pneumonia has been identified as the main causative agent of meningitis in this outbreak. The mode of transmission is person-to-person contact through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions from carriers. Close and prolonged contact – such as kissing, sneezing or coughing on someone, or living in close quarters (such as a dormitory, sharing eating or drinking utensils) with an infected person (a carrier) – facilitates the spread of the disease.
The most common symptoms of meningitis are a stiff neck, fever, headache, sensitivity to light, confusion, and vomiting. For meningitis due to Streptococcus pneumonia, the key intervention is prompt identification of affected cases and treatment with full course of antibiotics according to WHO guidelines. Mass vaccination campaigns are usually not carried out in such situations.