MSF leads a campaign to vaccinate 100,000 people in southern Ethiopia
The first 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, the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region. In four weeks, the total number of cases have reached 89 (including 13 deaths) in Kendo Kocha and 52 (three deaths) in Boloro Sore.
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 (everyone between the ages of 2 and 30* not previously vaccinated).
The campaign was launched on Sunday, February 12, and includes a major information drive. 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 ten teams, each composed of two vaccinators and four assistants, working at ten sites in the two areas, for a total of 20 vaccinators and 40 assistants.
MSF will coordinate the campaign with a medical coordinator, nurse and logistician, all international volunteers, with the assistance of a medical coordinator from the capital, Addis Ababa. The Ministry of Health has supplied the vaccines, while MSF is providing injection supplies and handling the cold chain and logistical support (seven vehicles).
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/day, for a combined total of 10,000 for all teams. If additional areas are affected, the vaccination campaign would be extended immediately.
Meningitis is an infection of the thin membrane that surrounds the brain and the spinal cord. The bacteria pass easily from person to person through drops of saliva expelled, for example, during conversation. Symptoms include neck stiffness, high fever, hypersensitivity to light, headaches and vomiting.
Note *: Only those between 2 and 30 years of age are vaccinated because the vaccine is not effective among children under 2 and the illness is rare among people over 30.