Meningitis outbreak in Uganda strikes hundreds

Thu Jan 25, 2007 6:42am EST

GENEVA Jan 25 (Reuters) - A meningitis outbreak has been confirmed in Uganda, with 16 deaths among 241 suspected cases so far this month, the World Health Organisation said on Thursday.

Uganda's Health Ministry is planning to vaccinate nearly 335,000 people in the affected northwestern area, which borders southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Nations agency said in a statement.

The outbreak -- in Arua, Maracha-Terego, Koboko and Yumbe districts -- erupted in areas with both refugees and nationals living in rural, densely populated settlements, it said. It follows a meningitis outbreak in southern Sudan, where WHO officials on Monday reported 17 deaths among 211 cases.

"Cases continue to rise. It is the meningitis season and Uganda lies in Africa's meningitis belt," said WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl.

Africa's meningitis belt stretches from Senegal to Ethiopia.

An infection of the thin lining that surrounds the brain and the spinal cord, the disease kills from 5 to 10 percent of those affected, typically with 24-48 hours, even when it is diagnosed early and treated, according to the WHO. Symptoms are a stiff neck, high fever, headaches and vomiting.



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