DR Congo succeeds in eliminating meningitis outbreak
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) recenlty declared the end of a meningitis outbreak Banalia, in northeastern Tshopo province.
The country’s Health Minister Jean-Jacques Mbungani has issued a statement saying, “"Considering that there has been no contamination for several weeks and the infection rate has fallen below the alert threshold for two consecutive weeks, I am happy to declare the end of the outbreak of meningitis in the Banalia health zone in the Tshopo Province."
Declared in early September of 2021, the meningitis outbreak has killed 205 out of a total of 2,662 notified cases, said the health minister.
To bring the outbreak under control, the national and provincial health authorities with support from World Health Organization (WHO) mounted a robust response in a challenging context, swiftly setting up local health emergency management teams, bolstering disease surveillance, carrying out vaccination drives and providing medical care including through mobile clinics. The measures helped reduce the case fatality ratio – the proportion of deaths among confirmed cases – from 85% at the start of the outbreak which was declared on 7 September 2021 to less than 10% within weeks.
“Meningitis can cause devastating outbreaks. It strikes fast and is lethal,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “Ending this outbreak under difficult circumstances and amid the COVID-19 pandemic is no mean feat by the national authorities. But we must invest more to better detect, prevent and lessen the debilitating impact of this disease.”
Meningitis is a serious infection, typically bacterial in nature, which is easily transmitted by airborne particles from bodily secretions. The disease can lead to death within hours and remains a major public health challenge.
Tshopo Province 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 caused 15 deaths—a case fatality ratio of 8%.