At least 16 people have died in a meningitis epidemic in the districts of Amuru and Oyam in northern Uganda over the past three months, health officials have said.
Northern Uganda is just recovering from two decades of brutal war between the government of President Yoweri Museveni and Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) which also saw over 2 million people interned in camps.
Amuru District, where the epidemic is spreading fast, has recorded 33 cases with 14 deaths since 24 February, while Oyam District has reported 25 cases with two deaths as reported by World Health officer in Gulu last month
The two districts are just recovering from two decades of Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency which displaced over 1.8 million people and left thousands dead.
““The deadly disease is spreading fast and the number could be higher as not all come to health facilities,” Charles Okwera, the deputy district health officer in Amuru, told Acholi Times.
Mr Okwera added that the district is doing everything possible to contain the disease in the district.
The World Health Organization (WHO) in a 21 March statement said 18 suspected cases with three deaths were recorded in three parishes in Pabbo sub-county, Amuru District, while 25 cases including two deaths were recorded in Oyam.
“In Oyam the sample revealed that the causative organism was streptococcus pnuemonie which is a usual bacteria that causes meningitis of the sporadic nature,” said Emmanuel Tenywa, a WHO official in Gulu.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, the lining surrounding the brain and the spinal cord. It is caused by bacteria and transmitted through contact with respiratory or throat secretions.
The most worrying type of meningitis is caused by a bacterium of the subtypes of meningococcal meningitides.
Generally, the disease has a mortality rate of 5 to 10 percent, with death occurring within 24 to 48 hours, while some survivors suffer brain damage, hearing loss or causes disabilities.
Uganda lies within the African meningitis belt, stretching from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east, according to WHO.
The region, experiences meningitis cycles whenever the dry season sets in. While vaccination can significantly reduce mortality, the exact strain of meningitis needs to be identified before vaccines are administered.
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