No drugs for breaking Meningitis ‘C’ in Nigeria – FG

The Federal Government has said the ‘C’ type of meningitis currently breaking in Nigeria is “strange” and the country does not have drugs for it.
The government also said there is a limited amount of doses of drugs Meningitis ‘C’ globally.
The Chief Executive Officer/National Coordinator, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, made this known to the Senate Committee on Primary Health and Communicable Diseases in Abuja on Monday.
Also, the Acting Director General, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. Emmanuel Odu, said the country needed about $1.1bn for the vaccination of 22 million persons in the five states affected by the Type ‘C’ cerebrospinal meningitis.
He announced that each vaccine cost between $30 and $50, stating that the vaccine is expensive and scarce.
Ihekweazu, in his presentation, disclosed that the outbreak started in the second week of December 2016 “and has been increasing since then.”
He said, “It has now reached a total of 2,524 cases altogether, of which 131 have been confirmed to be bacterial meningitis and we have had 328 deaths.
“It is important to note that the five most affected states are Zamfara – which is the epicentre of this specific outbreak and where is started; Sokoto, Katsina, Kebbi and Niger. These are where the burden of the disease are. We have, altogether, 16 states that have reported at least one case. But the five states are carrying the burden of the disease.
“What is of importance to note in this specific outbreak is that Nigeria has had a series of meningitis outbreaks in over the past 30 years. It comes in cycles and affects, mostly, what we call the Meningitis Belt, which goes across West Africa including northern Nigeria.
“However, three years ago, there was a broad, widespread vaccination campaign with a new vaccine – Meningitis ‘A’ vaccine – which wiped out the type of meningitis that used to come in the previous cycles. But what has happened (now) is really strange in Nigeria – Meningitis ‘C’. It is not new in the world but it is new in our context.
“Now, for Meningitis ‘C’, there is no commonly available vaccine. The situation here is that there is a limited stock of global vaccine available and we can’t access those drugs unless we have a proven outbreak.”
The NCDC boss explained that when the outbreak in Zamfara State escalated six weeks ago, the centre sent a team of researchers to the state to collate and analyse data on the outbreak, which was sent to the World Health Organisation to secure a release of vaccines.
“Those vaccines came in about two weeks ago and reactive vaccination campaign will start in Zamfara on Wednesday,” Ihekweazu added.
He, however, lamented that Nigerians had yet to be treating meningitis as an emergency, saying the cases of infection were being reported when they had become worse.
He stressed that there were global efforts on meningitis advocacy to procure technology to make vaccines for the disease.
“The technology to make these vaccines is available internationally. The challenge is that it is very expensive. Therefore, production is limited to only those who can afford to buy it,” Ihekweazu noted.
Also, Odu pointed out that meningitis was preventable with vaccines. He said the Type A bacteria was responsible for about 80 per cent of meningitis in Nigeria. He added that the government had prepared for another outbreak cycle for the type of the disease.
He said, “This type (A) is new in this environment; it is not the type that caused meningitis over the years. We had adequately prepared for the usual problem and that is why we are not seeing cases of that type this year. But this creatively new and unusual Type C that emerged, we forecast 500,000 doses even when we didn’t use to have such cases.
“About a week ago, 500,000 doses have been delivered in the affected states already. They are the ones to be used to execute the vaccination campaign. In addition to that, 823,000 doses are being expected; this will be delivered anytime; it is coming from the United Kingdom. In addition to that, we have contacted a company that manufactures a vaccine against the Type C based in India and works with UNICEF, so that they can source from different sources a total of two million doses.”
Members of the committee, however, berated the Federal Government for not launching preventive measures until the outbreak had worsened.
The Chairman, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, lamented government’s awareness campaign had remained low across the country.
He said, “Prior to this time, we should have been on air at the local level, letting people know that by this time of the year we will have this occurrence (outbreak). This is not the first time we are hearing about meningitis and we know that most times, it occurs during heatwave. I expect that we should be able to anticipate his every year; not only waiting but to anticipate either by vaccination or sensitization. From the feelers, we are not getting anything.”
“If this had been detected early, then we would have had rounds of vaccinations and would not be having this epidemic,” he said.
A member of the committee, Senator Ajayi Boroffice, also blamed the spread of the outbreak on inadequate public awareness.
“You said this outbreak was first noticed in the second week of December 2016 and March (2017) has passed. That is a long time. I feel since this thing was detected as earlier as the second week in December, you did not take the alert seriously enough. You could have done more of this publicity. Since it showed up in the second week of December, the alert to the public is not good enough, particularly as it is known that affected people come late to hospital. This may be because many people do not know how it presents,” he said.
In a related development, President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, has assured the Federal Ministry of Health of the Senate’s commitment to supporting all efforts to put an end to the outbreak of meningitis in the country.
In a series of tweets on his @BukolaSaraki handle, the Senate President said he had spoken with the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, to assure him of the Senate’s commitment to help end the epidemic.
Saraki said, “I applaud Federal Government, Ministry of Health, stakeholders and @WHO‘s efforts to fight meningitis in Nigeria. We need all hands on deck!
“I spoke to Minister of Health, Prof. @IsaacFAdewole, on the #meningitis outbreak to assure him of @NGRSenate‘s support.
“With a 15% mortality rate, the @NGRSenate stands ready to respond quickly to any requests for emergency assistance for #meningitis.”

No drugs for breaking Meningitis ‘C’ in Nigeria – FG No drugs for breaking Meningitis ‘C’ in Nigeria – FG Reviewed by Odogwu Emeka Odogwu on Monday, April 03, 2017 Rating: 5

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