Undoubtedly, the outbreak of meningitis in the country is a source of grave concern. The latest reports indicate that since December, Nigeria had reported 2996 cases of meningitis across 16 States. Sadly, 336 Nigerians out of that number died.  Given the widespread nature of the meningitis outbreak, many Nigerians are fearful and anxious. However, as with any infectious disease, it is possible to prevent the spread once you understand the epidemiology of the disease.
Meningitis is a condition in which the meninges become inflamed. This inflammation is usually caused by an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Meningococcal disease is found worldwide, with the highest incidence of disease found in the ‘meningitis belt’ of sub-Saharan Africa. How is Meningitis transmitted? The meningitis outbreak currently affecting several states in Nigeria can be traced to a type of Bacterial meningitis scientifically called Neisseria Meningitidis. The most common symptoms of meningitis include a stiff neck, high fever, sensitivity to light, confusion, headaches and vomiting. These symptoms mimic other infectious diseases such as malaria. Therefore, it is very important to seek medical care at health centers when you or someone you know experience any or all of these symptoms – especially sudden neck stiffness. Please do not assume that it is something less serious, go and see a healthcare professional.  Preventing Meningitis: Meningitis is an infectious disease. As a result, it is extremely important for Nigerians to practice good hygiene if we want to prevent the spread of this current outbreak. Hand washing using soap prevents the spread to individuals especially those who care for an infected family member or those who have touched infected objects. Other important preventive measures include covering the mouth while coughing and not spitting indiscriminately in public. If someone you know and care for is infected, please do not share cups and other utensils without washing them with soap and water.  It is critical to vaccinate people living in affected areas. If prevention fails, the next key step is early treatment. Those already infected should be promptly treated with the right antibiotics.