By Aziza Atieno

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has declared the meningitis outbreak that erupted in the north-eastern Tshopo Province over, with a total of 2662 cases and 205 deaths recorded.

Over the years, the disease has been considered fatal since it is transmitted through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions from infected people and is more susceptible to the younger generation.

The World Health Organization has set up a crisis response committee in Banalia, as well as in Kisangani, the capital of Tshopo and plans to deploy more experts and resources to accelerate the outbreak control efforts and provide medical supplies in Banalia

“We are scaling up control measures within the community and rapidly investigating suspected cases in surrounding localities to treat patients and curb potentially widespread infections,” said Dr Amédée Prosper Djiguimdé, WHO Representative in the DRC in a statement.

In 2009, an outbreak in Kisangani infected 214 people and caused 15 deaths – a case fatality ratio of 8%.

In November 2020, the World Health Assembly, the global health policy-setting body, approved a roadmap for a meningitis-free world by 2030, with three key objectives: elimination of bacterial meningitis, reduction of vaccine-preventable bacterial meningitis by 50% and deaths by 70%, as well as reduction of disability and improvement of quality of life after meningitis.

Major improvements have been made on the vaccine to treat the viral form of the disease transmitted through carriers which are specific to the infection. More than 1.6 million people have been vaccinated along the meningitis belt that runs across the continent from Senegal to Ethiopia and comprises of 26 countries.