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The Minister of Health in Nigeria has confirmed that the death toll from the meningitis outbreak in the country has risen to 813.
Isaac Adewole confirmed this on Wednesday after the Federal Executive Council Meeting presided over by vice president Yemi Osinbajo.
His statement comes as Nigerian Health authorities and international aid organizations attempt to tackle the surge in infections.
Earlier this month, the death toll stood at 300. But in less than three weeks, it has now risen to above 800, a cause for worry among health agencies.
The outbreak currently affects five states— Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Kebbi, and Niger all in the country’s northern region.
The government on Wednesday approved a house-to-house search in northern Nigeria to identify those afflicted with meningitis for vaccination and treatment.
The West African nation in April launched a mass vaccination campaign as part of its emergency response to the outbreak in its northwestern states, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has said.
The NCDC said the infection killed 33 people in 2016.
More than 2,000 people died from an outbreak of the disease in Nigeria in 2009, with basic healthcare limited in rural parts of the country, where most people live on less than $2 a day, despite the country’s huge oil resources.
Meningitis is the inflammation of tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord which can be caused by viral or bacterial infections. It spreads mainly through kisses, sneezes, coughs and in close living quarters.
The NCDC is working with the World Health Organisation, the U.N’s Children’s Fund and Medecins Sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors Without Borders, to try to control the outbreak.
This current outbreak of Meningitis is the worst outbreak ever experienced in Nigeria since 2009.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control said enhanced surveillance activities have so far contributed to increased case finding and more timely reporting.
The Nigeria Medical Association has accused the government of negligence in its handling of the outbreak.
The medical association said the government failed to prepare despite warnings, and has still not responded appropriately to the epidemic.