Meningitis


A teenage boy holding a young child closeClose and prolonged contact with an infected person (a carrier) facilitates the spread of the disease. Photo credit: WHOMeningitis is inflammation of the meninges, the covering of the brain and spinal cord. It is usually caused by a virus or bacterium (meningococcus). It is transmitted through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions. It is most often caused by infection (bacterial, viral, or fungal), but can also be produced by chemical irritation, subarachnoid haemorrhage, cancer and other conditions. 

Several different bacteria can cause meningitis. The bacteria are transmitted from person-to-person through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions from carriers. Close and prolonged contact – such as kissing, sneezing or coughing on someone, or living in close quarters (such as a dormitory, sharing eating or drinking utensils) with an infected person (a carrier) – facilitates the spread of the disease.

The most common symptoms are a stiff neck, high fever, sensitivity to light, confusion, headaches and vomiting. Even when the disease is diagnosed early and adequate treatment is started, 5% to 10% of patients die, typically within 24 to 48 hours after the onset of symptoms. 

Enhanced surveillance for early detection, confirmation of outbreaks, case management, and reactive vaccination (with the appropriate vaccine) are the main effective preventive and control measures for containment of meningococcal meningitis epidemics.

Sudan is the only country in the Region in the Africa meningitis belt. Major epidemics had been reported from Sudan in 1950–1951, 1978–1979, 1988–1989, and in 1998–1999. A decrease in the number of cases coincides with the progressive introduction of a newly developed meningococcal A conjugate vaccine in the country in 2012. Mass preventive conjugate-A vaccination campaigns (MenAfriVac) were successfully implemented all over Sudan in 2013.