The Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, says the agency had an emergency meeting in Jigawa state over the meningitis outbreak in the state. Dr Adetifa said the Emergency Operation Centre meeting reviewed the response, identified challenges, and proffered solutions to the outbreak.The NCDC boss disclosed this in a series of tweets via his Twitter handle. Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, a thin layer of the connective tissue that covers the brain and the spinal cord. If due to an infection, this inflammation can be caused by a variety of organisms – bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi. Injuries and certain drugs can also cause such inflammation. The common signs and symptoms are fever, headache, nausea and vomiting, neck stiffness and altered conscious levels. It can be transmitted from person to person through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions from infected people.
The outbreak of the infection in the country confirms the risk of international spread as there is an ongoing meningitis outbreak in the bordering Zinder State in Niger Republic. Zinder region shares an international border with Jigawa State in Nigeria where the Neisseria meningitidis serogroup C outbreak has been confirmed.
The World Health Organisation said the simultaneous occurrence of other epidemics, insecurity and population displacement, all in the context of a protracted humanitarian crisis, are likely to contribute to the spread of the outbreak in other countries of the West African sub-region.
WHO assesses the risk posed by the current meningitis outbreak in Niger as high at the national level, moderate at the regional level, and low at the global level. Meanwhile, the NCDC DG said he met with the Jigawa State Government, the Rapid Response Team, and other partners on curbing the spread of the disease in the country.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has also alerted Nigerians of another deadly virus, Marburg Virus Disease, recently confirmed in Equatorial Guinea.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), the Marburg Virus Disease (MVD) is a highly virulent disease that causes hemorrhagic fever, with a fatality ratio of up to 88%. The disease is found to be in the same family as the virus that causes the Ebola virus.
While there are worries currently in Equatorial Guinea over the outbreak of the disease, the NCDC is concerned that the dangerous disease might find its way into Nigeria anytime soon due to the gatherings and travel associated with the current national elections. The health organization stressed that the likelihood of importation to Nigeria is high due to the direct flight between Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea and the country’s proximity to Nigeria.
The first case of the Marburg Virus Disease was confirmed in Equatorial Guinea on February 13, 2023. The viral infection is said to have also killed nine persons in the country. According to WHO, preliminary tests after the deaths of at least nine people in the country’s western Kie Ntem Province turned out positive for viral hemorrhagic fever.
Equatorial Guinean health authorities sent samples to the Institut Pasteur reference laboratory in Senegal with support from WHO to determine the cause of the disease after an alert by a district health official on February 7.
The NCDC, in a press statement signed by its Director-General, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, warned that the case fatality rate of MVD ranges between 24 to 88 per cent and does not currently have an effective drug for treatment or a licensed vaccine for prevention.
The statement read: “There are currently no cases of Marburg virus disease in Nigeria. However, the NCDC, relevant ministries, departments, agencies, and partners have taken proactive measures to mitigate the risk of cross-border importation. The multi-sectoral National Emerging Viral Hemorrhagic Disease Technical Working Group, led by NCDC, is responsible for coordinating the national response to all VHFs across pillars, including surveillance, laboratory, case management, and risk communication. The NEVHD TWG like it has always done in the past following news of MVD outbreaks conducted a dynamic risk assessment to inform Nigeria’s preparedness following this recent outbreak in Equatorial Guinea.
“Based on available data, the overall risk of importation of the Marburg virus and the impact on the health of Nigerians has been assessed as MODERATE.
The risk assessment also shows that Nigeria has the capacity – technical, human (health workforce), and diagnostics – required to respond effectively in the event of an outbreak. Nigeria has also responded to viral hemorrhagic fever epidemics like the Ebola Outbreak in 2014 and built up her preparedness and response capabilities over the years.
“We have the diagnostic capacity to test for MVD presently at the National Reference Laboratory in Abuja and the University of Lagos Teaching Hospital Laboratory Centre for Human and Zoonotic Virology.”
The Nigerian health organization said diagnostic capacity will be scaled up to other laboratories in cities with essential entry points and others as may be required.
NCDC also noted that an effective response system is in place with the availability of control capacities (trained rapid response teams and an effective infection prevention and control programme) to limit the risk of spreading in the event of a single imported case.
The NCDC advises Nigerians and residents to avoid all but essential travels to Equatorial Guinea at this time.
“Persons with recent travel history to or transit through Equatorial Guinea within the past 21 days who experience symptoms such as fever, muscle pain, sore throat, diarrhoea, weakness, vomiting, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising should not go to any health facility but call 6232 or their State Ministry of Health hotline immediately for assessment and testing,” the agency added.