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A meningitis breakout that began in January in Niger has killed 75 people as of now, according to the country’s health minister Mano Aghali in a statement released on Thursday. The minister said the total number of meningitis cases in Niger has risen to 697.
Over half of the deaths from the disease have occurred in Niamey, the capital. Though, the epidemic has reached all regions of the country. A previous report showed that the breakout had already affected 345 individuals between the beginning of the year and March 29, including 45 deaths. Next week, a vaccination effort will start in the areas that have been most affected by the disease. Aghali stated health officials have distributed 13,500 doses as of now.
Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world. The country is prone to meningitis epidemics due to its location in what is called the “meningitis belt,” which includes Senegal to Ethiopia and all countries in between, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Meningitis is a highly contagious disease; it affects the lining around the brain and spinal cord, sometimes causing death within a few hours. Symptoms include severe headaches, a stiff neck, vomiting, and a sudden rise in body temperature.
By Alex Lemieux
Photo by Gustave Deghilage – Flickr License