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DR Congo: Meningitis Outbreak - Sep 2021

DR Congo
Disaster types

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has declared an outbreak of meningitis in the north-eastern Tshopo Province where 261 suspected cases and 129 deaths—a high case fatality ratio of 50%—have been reported. Confirmatory tests carried out by the Institut Pasteur in Paris detected Neisseria meningitidis – one of the most frequent types of bacterial meningitis with the potential to cause large epidemics. (WHO, 8 Sep 2021)

On 7 September 2021, the National Minister of Public Health declared a meningitis epidemic in the DRC. This declaration follows confirmation by the National Institute for Biomedical Research (INRB) and the Pasteur Institute in Paris of the presence of meningococcal meningitis type W in the samples collected from some patients in the Tshopo province. The epidemiological events that aroused suspicion date back to early July 2021 following an increase in deaths in a clinical context of fever, headache, stiff neck, suggestive of meningitis. However, preliminary investigations helped to establish that the health events observed date back to the beginning of June 2021 (S23) in two mining sites in the health area (AS) of Panga, health zone (ZS) of Banalia, located north of Kisangani, capital of Tshopo province. According to the WHO epidemiological bulletin dated 13 September 2021, 301 suspected cases of meningitis, including 131 deaths, i.e., a case-fatality rate of 48.8%, have been recorded since the beginning of the epidemic. WHO further highlights the notification of 39 new suspected cases between 10 and 11 September 2021. (IFRC, 23 Sep 2021)

The meningitis epidemic, which was declared by Congolese authorities on 7 September, has so far recorded 2,461 cases, including 200 deaths, affecting all 20 health areas in the Banalia health zone in the northeast Tshopo province. More than 158,000 people have been vaccinated in an attempt to curb the disease’s spread. Early consultation of patients, strengthened communication, improved surveillance and case management have led to a significant drop in the lethality rate, from 100 per cent at the beginning of June to 8 per cent on 26 October. (OCHA, 2 Nov 2021)

24 December 2021 – The Democratic Republic of the Congo has declared the meningitis outbreak that erupted in the north-eastern Tshopo Province over. A total of 2662 cases and 205 deaths were recorded. (WHO, 24 Dec 2021)