A vaccine for a life, Save our People


A disease that has lived with us for years, yet we still give up to its cold hands. Could it be that we have become so comfortable to see people lose their lives to a known disease or we just don’t care?

We are not in ordinary times indeed but come to think of it, are we supposed to focus on only one aspect of our trials to the neglect of the other? Covid-19 has shifted our attention from cerebrospinal meningitis (CSM) while its mortality rate is higher than covid-19.

CSM is a seasonal disease which occurs during the dry and warm seasons, thus from December to June when the weather is very hot. And mostly, people in tropical countries like Ghana suffer from this disease. In Ghana, Upper West, Upper East, Northern Region, and northern parts of Brong Ahafo and Volta regions are the prone areas.

CSM is an inflammation of the meninges (thin membranes that enclose the brain and the spinal cord of the central nervous system). It can be caused by: viruses, fungi, bacteria, parasites, and even chemicals (noninfectious). The most common organism (bacterium) associated with CSM is Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus). It can be transmitted through: droplets, and contact with an infected person such as kissing. The organism can exit an infected person through sneezing, coughing, saliva, and other respiratory secretions.
Several factors increase the risk of contracting the disease which include age, community setting, overcrowding, and other medical conditions (respiratory tract infections). Infected persons may experience headache, fever as high as 40 degrees Celsius, neck stiffness and altered consciousness. However, the signs and symptoms differ from person to person based on their immune system and body build up.
Other manifestations required to diagnose an infected person besides a laboratory test include: a positive Kernig’s sign (when the thigh and hip are flexed to 90 degrees, the leg cannot be straightened or extended); and a positive Brudzinski’s sign (flexing of the neck causes hips and knees to flex).

The meningococcal meningitis has serogroups namely: A, B, C, W, X, and Y strains. All these types have vaccines available in Ghana except the X strain which has no vaccine. It is a disturbing situation because the X strain meningococcal meningitis has claimed 40 lives in the Upper West Region out of two hundred plus reported cases, and if care is not taken, a lot more lives will be lost to the CSM. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this type of meningitis is associated with about 50% fatality rate if not treated early.

Are the people educated enough to realize the need to visit a health facility at the slightest symptoms? I was amazed when a lot of my colleagues had no knowledge of CSM and what it entails. Interestingly, that is the education we get about a disease that has 50/50 survival rate.

A public health nurse at the St Joseph hospital in Jirapa in the Upper West Region, Nelson Yelluzie stated that the disease has signs and symptoms that are similar to other diseases such as malaria.

According to him, these mislead people to resort to self- medication with the intention of curing the differential diseases. This, he said, may account for a delay in seeking medical care or treatment, leaving patients in a critical situation that mostly leaves health personnel with little or no chance of saving the life of the patient.

He also said most patients in the urban areas seek health care at CHPS clinics in their communities and these clinics have little or no facilities and expertise to manage such situations, and advises that suspected patients should always be referred immediately to the nearest hospital for advanced management to help save lives.

Unfortunately, the Upper West Region has no laboratory that can test the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF); a fluid that is found within the meninges of the brain and the spinal cord. Samples are usually taken to Tamale and the results brought back for confirmation and further management.

The people of Ghana especially the Upper West Region are calling on government to provide vaccines and other relevant resources for the type X strain meningococcal meningitis.


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