18 March, 2011

Meningitis in Ghana and the US, Avian Influenza in Bangladesh, and Plague in Madagascar

Meningitis in Ghana and the United States
Fifteen people have died from meningitis in Ghana’s Upper West Region with over 100 cases reported. Ghana is located in the Meningitis Belt of sub-Saharan Africa where the highest rates of bacterial meningitis are seen. Although vaccines exist for meningococcal meningitis, many in the Meningitis Belt are unvaccinated.

In the United States, young adults are considered to be at the greatest risk.  This week, a college student at Ohio State University and a high school student in Elizabethton, Tennessee died.  Meningococcal meningitis has been confirmed in the former and is suspected in the latter.  Also, an Oregon high school student is in critical condition with confirmed meningococcal meningitis.  A second possible case has also been identified.  According to the CDC, the US has between 1,000 and 1,200 cases each year.  The CDC has more information on the vaccine here.

Human Cases of Avian Influenza in Bangladesh
Two cases avian influenza (H5N1) have been reported in the Kamalapur area of Dhaka.  The first case is a one year old girl and second is a 2 year old boy.  The boy was diagnosed after increased surveillance following the identification of the girl’s illness.  The only other human case of H5N1 in Bangladesh was in 2008 in the same area as the current two cases.

Plague Continues to Spread in Madagascar
Since early February 2011 deaths from both pneumonic and bubonic plague have been occurring in Northern Madagascar. As of February 23rd a total of 45 cases had been detected in the country with 23 deaths. It is thought that plague initially spread as locals mistook symptoms of plague for influenza. It was only after 3 people in one family died in the district of Ambilobe that doctors were alerted. In a report dated March 15th, additional deaths were reported from the Antananarivo region. While plague typically occurs yearly in Madagascar’s Central Highlands, the current outbreak is occurring in a region where the disease is not endemic. In areas affected, homes are being sanitized, and preventative treatment is being given to those who have had contact with plague victims.

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