Epidemiology and Infection



Management of an outbreak of meningococcal meningitis in a Sudanese refugee camp in Northern Uganda


A. SANTANIELLO-NEWTON a1 and P. R. HUNTER a1c1
a1 Public Health Laboratory, Countess of Chester Health Park, Liverpool Road, Chester CH2 1UL, UK

Abstract

We describe an outbreak of meningitis at a Sudanese refugee camp in Northern Uganda that lasted over a year from February 1994. Some 291 cases occurred in a refugee population of 96860 (averaged over the year), an attack rate of 0·30%. The case fatality rate was 13·3%. From a small number of samples taken for culture N. meningitidis serogroup A, serotype 21[ratio]P1·9, clone III-1 was identified as the causative organism. The outbreak started in the camp's reception centre which had the highest attack rate. Spread from the reception centre was rapid and the epidemic reached its peak within 3 weeks. All of the cases amongst residents of the reception centre reported having had meningococcal vaccine before arriving at the camp and so were not immunized on arrival as would normally have been the case. Some 37547 doses of meningococcal vaccine were used in a mass immunization campaign in February and March 1994. Following this the outbreak was declared over in August 1994 when no cases were registered for 2 consecutive weeks. However, following a massive and sudden influx of refugees a new epidemic peak occurred during February 1995. Many of these new refugees were also not immunized on arrival due to pressures of numbers. A follow-up immunization campaign then brought an end to the outbreak. Our experience confirms the effectiveness of timely and high-coverage immunization campaigns in controlling group A meningitis outbreaks amongst refugees in Africa.

(Accepted September 6 1999)


Correspondence:
c1 Author for correspondence.


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