According to health officials, at least 306 cases of meningitis, including 24 fatal cases, have been reported nationwide since January 1 amid an ongoing meningitis outbreak as of April 19. The capital city of Niamey is among the most affected areas. Health officials and NGOs in the area have reportedly implemented public health measures, including vaccination campaigns, to contain the spread of the disease.
Meningitis is hyperendemic to the "meningitis belt" of Africa's Sahel region, which stretches from Senegal to Ethiopia, and is an annual concern in the region as periodic outbreaks occur during the dry season between October and April.
Symptoms of meningitis, a contagious bacterial disease that can cause infections in the lining of the brain and/or in the blood, include fever, headache, a stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light, joint and muscle pains, and a rash. Without appropriate medical treatment, the disease is fatal in approximately 50 percent of cases. A vaccine is available.
Individuals present in Niger are advised to take the necessary measures to protect themselves from the disease (wash hands and disinfect all surfaces frequently), avoid all contact with infected individuals, and make sure appropriate immunizations are up to date before traveling to the country. Individuals developing symptoms of the disease should seek immediate medical attention.