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17.12.2008 Health

Meningitis Cure Underway

By Norman Cooper - newtimesonline.com
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Clinical trials of a new vaccine for the protection against meningitis has started at the Navrongo Health Research Centre in the Upper East Region.

Known as the Meningococcal “A” Conjugate Vaccine (Men A), it is expected to provide immunity to Ghanaians who contract the disease particularly in the dry harmattan season.

People hardest hit by the disease are those living in the three northern regions.

Meningitis, particularly the well known type in Ghana, Cerebro Spinal Meningitis  (CSM), is an infection of the brain and spinal cord.

It is associated with fever and chills, intense headache, stiff neck, vomiting, drowsiness, multi organ failure and carries a significant risk of death, a few hours of contraction leads to permanent brain damage, hearing loss and learning disability of victims.

Dr Abraham V.O. Hodgson, director of the NHRC, disclosed this in Accra on Tuesday and said the trial was being  conducted on children and young adults who were mostly affected during CSM outbreak up north.

He was speaking at the opening of a four-day workshop on the introduction of the Meningococcal “A” conjugate vaccine for communication officers and health professionals from the meningitis belt zones of Ghana, Niger, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, The Gambia and Mali.

The new vaccine, when introduced in the country after the clinical trial, he said, would put to an end the deadly meningitis epidemics that had plagued sub-Sahara Africa for over 100 years.

Dr Hodgson said he was happy that Navrongo was selected by the collaborating partners for the new Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP) because of the enormity of the burden of the disease on the people in the three northern regions, particularly the Upper East Region.

He commended the World Health Organisation (WHO) for promoting technical co-operation on health among countries carrying out programmes to control and eradicate the disease to improve the quality of human life.

Dr Elias Sory, Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), said the country was in a serious health crisis as meningococcal, a new strain of meningitis, was already in Ghana and has been reported to have struck at Juaso in the forest zone of Ashanti Region.

He expressed happiness that the trial of the new vaccine was being conducted in Ghana, saying it is my hope that the vaccine will be incorporated in the country's Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI), a national immunisation system.

“This new vaccine when finally introduced should not only be for people of the northern regions but also for all Ghanaians since it has now emerged that the meningitis disease was spreading to the south,” he said. An epidemiologist, Dr Harry Opanta of the WHO Ghana office, said that the new vaccine would provide protection for more than 500 million people in the affected zones.

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