Over a million people vaccinated for meningitis in East Guinea
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
6/18/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
It's a success story in a world plagued with far too many catastrophes. According to the United Nations Children's Fund and the World Health Organization, more than 1.1 million people have been successfully vaccinated against meningitis in eastern Guinea.
Guinea lies in the "meningitis belt," a part of Africa stretching from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east that sees regular outbreaks of the disease.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Health workers here say that the mass vaccination campaign could help stop further deadly outbreaks. At least 52 people here have died from the disease here since the first reported cases in January.
According to the WHO, Guinea had an estimated 400 suspected cases last year. Meningitis inflames the protective tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord. The disease is passed from person to person by way of bacteria that live in the throat. Meningitis usually strikes children and young adults.
Symptoms commonly include headaches, high fever and a stiff neck. One of the most deadly strains of the disease, meningococcal meningitis, a bacterial form of the illness, can cause severe brain damage and, if untreated, kills half its victims.
Experts say vaccination is the best way to prevent the disease and stop its spread. "In Guinea, only [around] 35 percent of the children are fully vaccinated," Timothy La Rose, spokesman for the U.N. Children's Fund in Guinea says.
UNICEF had joined with the government, WHO and other partners to launch "a campaign to vaccinate 95 percent of people ages 1 to 29 who live in the affected areas."
Guinea lies in the "meningitis belt," a part of Africa stretching from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east that sees regular outbreaks of the disease. UNICEF and its partners also conducted community awareness campaigns to educate people about meningitis and the importance of getting vaccinated.
Getting the word out is one hurdle in the vaccination campaign in Guinea. Building sufficient infrastructure is another.
La Rose says that while they are readily available, vaccines generally need to be refrigerated. "You can imagine in a country with electricity problems and infrastructure issues, it can be quite a challenge," he says. It's also a challenge "to keep the cold chain strong so that the vaccinations would not expire or go bad during the transport and delivery."
La Rose added that UNICEF has been working with local health centers to distribute antibiotics to treat children who contract meningitis, and that UNICEF plans to offer a second round of vaccinations later this year.
Copyright 2017 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK
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