Health, Africa

WHO says meningitis outbreak declared in DR Congo

At least 261 suspected cases, 129 deaths reported in northeastern Tshopo province

James Tasamba   | 08.09.2021
WHO says meningitis outbreak declared in DR Congo

KIGALI, Rwanda

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday that an outbreak of meningitis has been declared in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

DR Congo “has declared an outbreak of meningitis in the northeastern Tshopo Province where 261 suspected cases and 129 deaths, a high case fatality ratio of 50% have been reported,” the WHO said in a statement.

“Health authorities have deployed an initial emergency team amid efforts to quickly ramp up the response with the support of the WHO.”

A crisis response committee has been set up in Banalia, the community affected by the outbreak, as well as in Kisangani, the capital of Tshopo, to speed up efforts to contain the outbreak.

“We are moving fast, delivering medicines, and deploying experts to support the government’s efforts to bring the outbreak under control in the shortest possible time,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa.

The WHO said more than 100 patients are receiving treatment at home and in healthcare centers 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 Amedee Prosper Djiguimde, WHO representative in DR Congo.

Meningitis is a serious infection and a major public health challenge.

It is transmitted among people through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions from infected people.

Close and prolonged contact or living in close quarters with an infected person enables the spread of the disease.

More than 1.6 million people aged between 1 and 29 years were vaccinated in a massive campaign in 2016 in Tshopo, according to health authorities.

Meningitis has broken out in several DR Congo provinces in the past. In 2009, an outbreak in Kisangani infected 214 people and caused 15 deaths, with a case fatality ratio of 8%.

Last year, the WHO approved a roadmap for a meningitis-free world by 2030.

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