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Meningitis epidemic in DR Congo kills 129 in one day

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…Kills 129 in one day

AN epidemic of meningitis has been declared in northeastern DR Congo, where 129 people died yesterday.

  A statement issued by World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Africa branch said 261 suspected cases have been recorded so far to amount to a “high case fatality ratio of 50 per cent.

  According to the release, the epicentre of the outbreak is in Banalia, in Tshopo province.

  “Confirmatory tests carried out by the Institute Pasteur in Paris detected Neisseria meningitidis -– one of the most frequent types of bacterial meningitis with the potential to cause large epidemics. But the epicentre of the outbreak is in Banalia, in Tshopo province,” it said.

  The release further said that Health officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo have deployed an initial emergency team there and the WHO is bringing in additional drugs and experts.

  Six strains of the N. meningitis germ are notorious for causing epidemics. However, the early symptoms of the disease — headaches and fever — can be difficult to spot as they are similar to other common ailments.

  It will be recalled that in 2009, an epidemic in Kisangani, the capital of Tshopo, caused 15 fatalities out of 214 cases, but in 2016, more than 1.6 million people aged below 30 were vaccinated in Tshopo, which lies in a “meningitis belt” of 26 countries, from Senegal to Ethiopia, that are particularly exposed to the disease.

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