Health professionals in the West African nation of Togo have decided to prioritize care for children because of the rising rates of meningitis.
Meningitis happens when the membrane enveloping the spinal cord and brain becomes infected. This is a serious disease because of its rapid onset and significant mortality rates. Even though many people do survive meningitis, they must live with lifelong complications, like hearing loss, brain damage or learning disabilities.
Northern Togo is in the middle of a meningitis outbreak. The disease has spread from Kara to the Savannah and Central areas in the northern portion of the nation.
On Feb. 19, Togo health officials reported 447 meningitis cases and 34 deaths. The cases began in January, and the rising rates have not yet fallen.
As of today, children comprise 65 percent of the cases. Young adults, adolescents and children under 5 years old are the most susceptible to the disease.
“Vaccination is the best way to prevent meningitis, but we must continue to raise awareness about the issue,” Olivier Adom, a health worker in Sotouboua, said. “Campaigns are taking place in schools and across radio and now children know the symptoms. We can see the awareness-raising campaigns are beginning to bear fruit as more outpatient visits for headaches and pain are taking place, but there is still much to do.”