CENTRAL NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE MENINGITIS VACCINATIONS

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The government of the state of Bauchi, located in central Nigeria, has pledged to immunize 1.6 million people in the country against cerebrospinal meningitis (CSM), a serious condition that can cause brain and spinal cord damage, beginning in April. Last month, two CSM-associated deaths and 13 cases of the disease were reported in Nigeria -- a worrisome spike in the disease's prevalence, according to health officials.

Alhaji Aminu Abubakar, deputy director for disease control at Bauchi's Ministry of Health, reported that some 300 professionals had been trained to conduct the upcoming immunizations. "The plan for the vaccination is to prevent a total outbreak of CSM this year, as the last mass vaccination took place about 10 years ago," he said. Free CSM treatment -- a total of 1,500 doses of vaccine -- had already been administered in the areas recently affected by the disease, he added. The large-scale inoculation plan will cost approximately $33 million.

The most recent severe meningitis epidemic in Nigeria occurred in 1996, when the disease infected 109,580 people and killed more than11,700.