Over 800 Nigerians have been killed by meningitis since the latest outbreak of the epidemic in the country 16 weeks ago.
The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, disclosed this figure on Wednesday after the Federal Executive Council meeting at the State House in Abuja.
Mr. Adewole said though the outbreak which started in Nigeria in 2016 is now spreading more slowly, the disease has killed 813 people.
“As of yesterday (Tuesday), the number of deaths stood at 813”, Mr. Adewole told journalists after the cabinet meeting, adding however, “As of now, we are also noticing a decline”.
“This is week 16. This is also expected because we are moving away from the active season. We are confident that in the next couple of weeks everything will be over.”
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, also confirmed the figure in a tweet on his twitter page on Wednesday.
“We’ve lost about 800 people to Meningitis – this should not be the case. We must encourage families to take their children for vaccination”, he said in the tweet.
“As we mark #WorldImmunizationWeek, we must all encourage our families and communities to embrace vaccines as a preventive healthcare measure”, Mr. Saraki stated.
On April 19, the Nigerian government had announced that 745 people had died, a spike of more than 50 per cent from the previous week, adding that there had been more than 8,000 suspected cases.
The outbreak of meningitis C is concentrated in northern Nigeria, where a mass vaccination programme has begun to limit its spread.
Five north-west states, which include Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Niger and Kebbi, were the most affected by the outbreak.
The Governor of Zamfara, Abdulaziz Yari, whose state is worst hit with close to 300 recorded deaths, had earlier drawn scathing criticism from across the country when he attributed the epidemic to God’s anger over the sins of Nigerians.
Nigeria lies on the “meningitis belt” of sub-Saharan Africa that stretches from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east, where outbreaks are a regular occurrence.
Early prevention of the disease, which is spread through coughs, sneezes and close contact, was hindered by a lack of available vaccine for the type meningitis C strain responsible.
Although a large volume of the vaccine has since been imported, it is still not enough for vaccination across Nigeria to prevent the disease; with the government lamenting cost of importation and short shelf life of the vaccines.
Mr. Adewole said the government was exploring a joint venture with a local drug manufacturer to produce the vaccines in Nigeria.