Vaccinations underway as meningitis kills hundreds in Nigeria

Nigeria is one of the 26 countries within the "meningitis belt" of sub-Saharan Africa.

Story highlights

  • The Nigeria Center for Disease Control says nearly 500 people have died in a meningitis outbreak
  • Nigeria records some of the highest incidences of the disease in Africa
  • A vaccination campaign is underway

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)A meningitis outbreak has killed 489 people in Nigeria this year, the World Health Organization said Thursday. The country's Center for Disease Control reported 4,637 suspected cases.

Meningitis is a serious infection of the thin lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, which can cause brain damage. "Stereotype C," a new strain of meningococcal meningitis, emerged in Nigeria in 2013.
Untreated, meningococcal meningitis, the bacterial form of the disease, is fatal in 50% of cases.
    The WHO also said that a vaccination campaign organized by the International Coordinating Group on Vaccine Provision is underway in Nigeria.
    The coordinating group -- which is managed by the WHO, Médecins sans Frontières, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the United Nations Children's Fund -- is tasked with provision of emergency vaccine supplies during outbreak emergencies.
    Last month, Nigeria's Center for Disease Control warned that there were not enough vaccines.
    "There is a vaccine available," Chief Executive Chikwe Ihekweazu said, "but it is not commercially available for the stereotype involved in this specific outbreak, and we have to make application to the World Health Organization for the vaccines."
    However, in a press release on April 1, Health Minister Isaac Adewole said that up to 1.3 million vaccines had been acquired, including 500,000 doses of meningococcal vaccine provided by the WHO.
    An additional 820,000 units have been donated by the British government, according to the WHO.
    Is the end in sight for meningitis?