New meningitis vaccine may stop outbreaks

The development of a new meningitis vaccine may help prevent epidemics in Africa for the first time.

The World Health Organization last week approved a meningitis vaccine that should stop outbreaks before they even begin, according to an Associated Press report.

The new vaccine came about through a partnership between the World Health Organization, the Serum Institute of India and PATH, a nonprofit group funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The vaccine targets type A meningitis, which causes more than 90 percent of outbreaks in Africa. WHO officials confirmed last week the vaccine, which costs about 40 cents a shot,  met quality-control requirements, according to the report.

Daniel Berman, the deputy director of Medecin Sans Frontiere's Access for Essential Medicines campaign, said that the development of the vaccine will be a tremendous help.

“This is pretty close to a revolution in terms of controlling meningitis,” Berman said, the Associated Press reports. “With this new vaccine, we will be able to plan ahead to prevent outbreaks.”

WHO meningitis expert Dr. William Perea agreed.

“It sounds like a lot, but in terms of value for money and the immediate public health impact, the meningitis vaccine scores pretty well,” Perea told the Associated Press.

Meningitis is highly contagious and spreads through sneezing, coughing or living in cramped conditions. Symptoms include a stiff neck, high fever, headaches and vomiting. Even when the disease is caught early and treatment is started, up to 10 percent of patients die within two days.