February 12, 2006
Cases of meningitis were reported during the first week of January in the Welayita region of the Kendo Kocha and Bolo Sore woredas (administrative units), in southern Ethiopia. In four weeks, the total number of cases reached 89 in Kendo Kocha, including 13 deaths, and 52 in Boloro Sore, with three deaths.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) immediately began working with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health to respond to this epidemic, providing medications - oily chloramphenicol and ceftriaxone - and treatment protocol training to medical personnel at health centers. A vaccination campaign has also been initiated to contain the epidemic. It will target more than 200,000 people between the ages of two and 30 not previously vaccinated. Only those in this age range are vaccinated because the vaccine is not effective for children under two and the illness is rare among people over 30.
The campaign was launched on Sunday, February 12, and includes a major public awareness campaign. It will continue for about two weeks. The campaign is a joint project of MSF and the Ministry of Health. It will be carried out by 10 vaccination teams working in 10 locations across two affected areas. The Ministry of Health has supplied the vaccines, while MSF is providing injection supplies and logistical support with seven vehicles, and is handling the cold chain, which is a system used to maintain the vaccines at their viable temperature (see box below).
Meningitis is endemic in Ethiopia, and epidemics tend to break out particularly during the major dry season, from January to March. MSF has also responded to several outbreaks, including one in 2001 in the same region. Experience shows that people arrive in large numbers during the first days of a vaccination campaign and each team may vaccinate up to 1,000 people per day, for a combined total of 10,000 for all teams. If additional areas are affected, the vaccination campaign would be extended immediately.
To learn more about meningitis and its symptoms, please click here.
© 2013 Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)