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What is the news?
Recently, World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners launched the first-ever global strategy to defeat meningitis. Meningitis is a debilitating disease that kills hundreds of thousands of people each year.
What is the aim of the strategy?
The strategy ‘the Global Roadmap to Defeat Meningitis by 2030’, aims to prevent infections and improve care and diagnosis for those affected.
It also aims to eliminate epidemics of bacterial meningitis (deadliest form of the disease) and to reduce deaths by 70 per cent and halve the number of cases.
The strategy could save more than 200,000 lives annually and significantly reduce disability caused by the disease.
What is meningitis?
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. It is predominantly caused by bacterial and viral infection. Meningitis caused by bacterial infection causes around 250,000 deaths a year and can lead to fast-spreading epidemics.
It kills a tenth of those infected mostly children and young people. It leaves a fifth with long-lasting disability, such as seizures, hearing and vision loss, neurological damage, and cognitive impairment.
Meningitis epidemics have occurred in the last decade in all regions of the world. But it is most common in the ‘Meningitis Belt,’ which spans 26 countries across sub-Saharan Africa.
Is there any vaccine to protect against meningitis?
Several vaccines protect against meningitis, including meningococcal, Haemophilus influenzae type b and pneumococcal vaccines. But not all communities have access to them. Many countries are yet to introduce them into their national programmes.
Research is underway to develop vaccines for other causes of meningitis, such as Group B Strep bacteria.
What is the aim of the new roadmap?
First, achievement of high immunisation coverage, development of new affordable vaccines and improved prevention strategies and outbreak response
Second, speedy diagnosis and optimal treatment for patients
Third, good data to guide prevention and control efforts
Fourth, care and support for those affected, focusing on early recognition and improved access to care and support for after-effects
Fifth, advocacy and engagement, to ensure high awareness of meningitis, accountability for national plans, and affirmation of the right to prevention, care and after-care services
There is an urgent need for innovation, funding and research to develop more meningitis-preventive vaccines. Efforts are also needed to strengthen early diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation for all those who need it after contracting the disease.
Source: This post is based on the article ” WHO releases new roadmap to defeat meningitis ” published in The Down To Earth on 28th Sep 2021.