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. Toll in Burkina meningitis epidemic exceeds 500

by Staff Writers
Ouagadougou (AFP) March 20, 2008
A meningitis epidemic has killed 519 people out of 5,046 cases reported in Burkina Faso since the start of January, new health ministry figures said Thursday.

Ousmane Badolo, a ministry epidemiologist told AFP "we've gone over the 500- dead mark".

Dr Badolo said that of 16 affected districts in Burkina Faso, the outbreak had reached epidemic levels in eight. The last official figures issued on March 9 reported 441 deaths out of 4,061 cases.

The outbreak is centred along the border with Ivory Coast, where 44 deaths had been reported by February 20, a day before the two countries announced a joint health programme to tackle the epidemic.

Both countries are on a sub-Saharan "meningitis belt" that stretches from Senegal on the Atlantic coast to Ethiopia in the east. Burkina Faso has been worst affected, as it was last year.

Health officials from both countries decided to work together to provide free health care to people from both sides of the border, they said in a joint statement.

New vaccination campaigns were scheduled for affected districts in coming days, Badolo said.

"Surveillance is ongoing, and if there's a need, we can deal with it since we currently have a stock of 168,000 doses of vaccine and are waiting for 900,000 more doses in the coming week," he added.

Sylvestre Kiendrebeogo of Burkina Faso's health ministry said Ivorian and Burkinabe authorities agreed to "formalise our exchanges and develop a joint strategy," at a meeting in February in the northeast Ivory Coast town of Bouna. Meningitis is very contagious and initial symptoms include a quickly rising temperature, violent headaches, vomiting and neck stiffness. It is declared an epidemic when there are at least 10 cases per 100,000 people.

In 2007, the United Nations said three-quarters of the more than 2,000 deaths from meningitis in nine countries were in Burkina Faso.

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WHO warns more TB cases slipping through detection net
Geneva (AFP) March 17, 2008
The World Health Organisation warned Monday that more new tuberculosis cases are slipping through the detection net, as countries fail to keep up with rapid progress made in earlier years.

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