A social media influencer and UK based medical doctor explains why meningitis is NOT caused by heat contrary to popular beliefs and reasons it is common in Northern Nigeria. She also proffer solutions to the meningitis problem in Northern Nigeria and Nigeria in general.
Meningitis is not caused by heat. It is caused by bacteria/viruses.
This is a simple short story written to help you understand everything about meningitis (called koli/yirunyirun in yorubaland).
What to do
What it is
How to prevent it
Why it happens
How it looks like
And everything else, read here.
So why is it common in Northern Nigeria?
It is a combination of many factors which increase the risk for northerners- but being a “hot” region is not a cause for meningitis at all.
A lot of hot places in the world like Dubai, Iran, Qatar, and many places in the Middle East don’t have as much cases of meningitis as much as we do- if they have any at all.
Infact according to the WHO, the highest burden of the disease is in a curious zone called “the meningitis belt” of sub-Saharan Africa, stretching from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east.
This definitely includes Nigeria- particularly Northern Nigeria. This meningitis belt still reports around 30 000 cases each year.
In major epidemics, the attack rate range is 100-800 people per 100,000.
But some communities can have attack rates as high as 1000 per 100,000.
So why is Meningitis quite common in the North of Nigeria?
First reason is Immunization.
There’s massive ignorance and confusion surrounding immunization.
A lot of people are not aware about immunization and so never get their children immunised against meningitis.
Some who are aware are terribly misinformed. They see immunization as a low-key American way of sterilising their children/women.
So they turn down opportunities for immunising themselves and kids- and when the meningitis bacteria/virus comes calling- they will pick up the call.
Sadly effective disease control can only be achieved with massive vaccination as the initial step.
Unfortunately, the effectiveness of the vaccine itself also depend on the coverage.
So while there are vaccines, many northerners are either unaware, uninformed or uninterested.
Overcrowding- which makes disease spread easily.
Widespread poverty- making them not healthy on the average with weak immune system.
Stark illiteracy- no education.
Excessive ignorance- on immunization.
Cold nights- promoting chest infections and colds.
These are the issues.
There’s also superstition.
Back in 2017, a sitting governor in Zamfara labelled meningitis as a “punishment from God” for fornication. If a governor is that illiterate, what do you think would be the intellectual situation of the average person in that state/region?
So finally, the answer is simple:
Fight ignorance and illiteracy.
Make vaccinations free and mandatory.
Provide health education.
Address homelessness and overcrowding.
These are the simple things we can do to effectively address meningitis as a country.