Over 1 Million Vaccinated Against Meningitis

Nearly 1,153,000 people were reached with meningitis vaccines in eastern Guinea during a campaign by the Guinean government, United Nations Children’s Fund, World Health Organization and other partners.

The campaign lasted six days, finishing over the weekend of June 14, and vaccinated over 95 percent of the people between the ages of 1 and 29 in the affected areas of Mandiana and Siguiri.

Guinea is located in the “meningitis belt” which stretches west from Senegal to Ethiopia in the east, and has the highest rates of meningococcal meningitis.

Since January of 2014 there have been 539 suspected cases of meningitis and 52 deaths in Guinea, with an estimated 400 cases last year. The vaccination campaign was completed in hopes that it will end the outbreak that has emerged in the eastern region of Guinea.

Meningitis is a disease that mostly affects children, teens and young adults, and is transmitted from person to person through respiratory or throat secretions. When contracted, the disease causes the protective tissue around the brain and spinal cord, known as the meninges, to become inflamed.

The bacterial form, meningococcal meningitis, affects the brain membrane, which has the potential to cause serious brain damage, and if untreated, is fatal in 50 percent of cases. The most notable symptoms are high fever, stiff neck, headaches, sensitivity to light and vomiting.

Spokesman for UNICEF in Guinea, Timothy La Rose, stresses the value of community education and awareness about the importance of receiving vaccines. Through rural radio and community sensitization, UNICEF educates the population about the dangers that meningitis poses to children and where vaccination centers are located.

UNICEF hopes to provide another set of vaccinations later this year to continue to keep the outbreak under control and protect the children and young adults of Guinea.

— Kim Tierney 

Sources: Voice of America, UNICEF, WHO