In a follow-up on the cluster of acute illness and sudden deaths in Liberia, the World Health Organization (WHO) says the etiology has been established as meningococcal meningitis.

Liberia map/CIA
Liberia map/CIA

Thirteen out of 24 samples analysed confirmed Neisseria meningitidis serotype C using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique. In addition, four out of the five cases that manifested typical clinical features of meningococcal disease [purpura fulminans (seen in 4 cases), ecchymosis (2 cases), petechial rashes (4 cases), and abdominal pain (4 cases)] were confirmed.

In this case, the infectious pathogen (Neisseria meningitidis serotype C) caused meningococcal disease (septicemia an infection of blood) as opposed to meningococcal meningitis (infection of the meninges), which is common in West, Central and East Africa. Meningococcal disease outbreak is very rare in West Africa.

The overall situation of the outbreak in Liberia has greatly improved and no new cases and deaths have been reported.

As of 19 May 2017, a total of 31 cases including 13 deaths (case fatality rate of 42%) have been reported from Sinoe (27 cases and 10 deaths), Montserrado (2 cases and 2 deaths) and Grand Bassa (2 cases and 1 death). The last case was reported on 7 May 2017 while the last death occurred on 2 May 2017.