Niger has registered 157 cases of meningitis that have resulted in 11 deaths this year, but there is no epidemic of the bacterial infection anywhere in the country, according to Niger’s health authorities.
“None of the eight regions of Niger has crossed the threshold of requiring an alert of an epidemic,” said Lamine Issa, Niger’s health minister.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) threshold for issuing a meningitis alert is five cases per 100,000 inhabitants. The organisation declares an epidemic when 10 cases per 100,000 inhabitants are recorded in a week.
Niger’s southern neighbours Burkina Faso and Nigeria have both declared epidemics this year, and the International Federation of the Red Cross has reported on possible epidemic levels in Benin. WHO has warned 2008 could see a spike in the number of meningitis infections across Africa.
Issa said Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, has so far avoided mass infections because of a successful plan of preventative action implemented this year.
According to the ministry of health, there have been regular missions around the country to prepare for outbreaks and to stockpile 500,000 vaccination doses of in regional health centres.
“Health workers at all levels have been instructed to reinforce their efforts to follow outbreaks and to give free treatment if cases occur,” Issa said.
Among the regions in Niger which recorded meningitis cases this year are Zinder, Niamey, Maradi, Tahoua, Tillabery and Dosso. The regions Agadez and Diffa remain untouched, according to the health ministry.