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Hundreds dead in Burkina meningitis epidemic: ministry

by Staff Writers
Ouagadougou (AFP) Feb 13, 2008
A meningitis epidemic in the impoverished East African nation of Burkina Faso has claimed 204 lives since the start of the year, the health ministry said Wednesday.

The outbreak, which is centred along the border with neighbouring Ivory Coast, has also left 28 dead in that country, Ivorian Health Minister Remi Alla said.

"We have so far registered, as of February 10, 1,422 cases of meningitis of whom unfortunately 204 have died," said Sylvestre Kiendrebeogo, the director of the meningitis unit at the Burkina Faso health ministry.

Meningitis is very contagious and initial symptoms include a quickly rising temperature, violent headaches, vomiting and neck stiffness.

Officially an illness reaches epidemic proportions when there are at least ten cases per 100,000 people.

According to Kiendrebeogo, the worst affected areas are currently in the southwest of Burkina Faso along the border with Ivory Coast.

A meeting of Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast health officials to discuss the outbreak is scheduled for February 20.

The government in Ouagadougou on Tuesday sent 300,000 doses of the vaccine to the affected regions as part of a campaign to vaccinate those aged two to 30 in the area.

In Ivory Coast, health minister Alla reported an overall shortage of vaccines, but said there was a budget of 1.2 billion euros (1.8 billion dollars) for emergency vaccines for worst-affected regions and funding for cars and motorbikes to reach remote areas.

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