8 March 2018
UBA, March 8 (Xinhua) — A meningitis outbreak in South Sudan’s former Eastern Equatorial state has claimed 28 lives as new infections reach 107, a World Health Organization (WHO) official revealed on Thursday.
Ramadan Otim, the WHO Technical Officer for Emergency, Preparedness and Response told Xinhua that meningitis outbreak could claim additional lives if mitigation measures are not rolled out urgently in affected regions like Lyire and Imurok payams in Torit county, Imatong state. Payam is the second-lowest administrative division below counties.
“As of Tuesday, we have registered 28 deaths with 107 more suspected cases in Lyire and Imurok Payams in Torit County, giving a case fatality of 26 percent beyond WHO standard for optimal control,” said Otim.
He added that more alerts have been received in the last 24 hours and they were being investigated by the response teams and vetted against the standard case definition for meningitis.
“These conditions thus favor the transmission of epidemic meningitis especially in areas located in the African meningitis belt where Torit lies,” Otim told Xinhua.
South Sudan like the other twenty-six countries in the ‘meningitis belt’ of Africa, remains prone to the viral disease that leads to death or paralysis among the infected.
Mathew Tut, Director of Integrated Diseases Surveillance and Response in South Sudan’s Ministry of Health, said the government had been notified by the county health department about the deaths and new infections.
He noted insecurity on the roads between Torit and Lyire payam and mal-functionality of the health facilities have constrained access and slowed optimization of the response activities.
“The threat of meningitis outbreaks in South Sudan is premised on its location in the African Meningitis belt in addition to the historical, climatic, and the complex public health situation in the entire country,” said Tut.
He noted that the dry spell in South Sudan lasts for 5-6 months, with outside temperatures reaching as high as 40 degree Celsius.
The health officer said the implication is that there is sufficient pool of susceptible individuals in Torit and neighboring counties (especially Magwi and Ikotos) and this can lead to further transmission of the disease.
“Majority of the 52 percent of new infections and 43 percent of deaths have been reported in individuals aged 30 years and above,” Tut said.
He added that the emergency preparedness response team comprising at least 33 volunteers has been deployed on the ground to conduct active search in the health facilities and affected communities.
The last meningitis outbreak in South Sudan was declared in May 2013 in Malakal.
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