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Meningitis: WHO member states make major commitment

Meningitis Image ID: 41854996 (L). Image credit: designua / 123rf
Image credit: designua / 123rf

Member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a major commitment to fight meningitis at the 73rd annual meeting of the World Health Assembly (WHA).

The Assembly endorsed a number of resolutions during the virtual session, one of which related to meningitis control. “Committee A, which focuses on programme and budget matters, decided to recommend the adoption of the first-ever resolution on meningitis, which would approve a global roadmap to defeat meningitis by 2030,” the WHO said in a statement. Meningitis, the statement added, is “a disease that kills 300,000 people annually and leaves one in five of those affected with devastating long-term consequences.”

Meningitis, the WHO explains, “is a serious infection of the meninges, the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. It is a devastating disease and remains a major public health challenge. The disease can be caused by many different pathogens including bacteria, fungi or viruses, but the highest global burden is seen with bacterial meningitis.” Meningococcal disease – caused by Neisseria meningitidis, is the [bacteria] with the potential to produce large epidemics.” 

In India, a study published earlier this year noted that “the meningococcal disease burden and epidemiology in India are not reliably known.” However, “results from 32 original publications, eleven of which were case reports, suggest a significant burden of meningococcal disease and related complications. Meningococcal disease is increasingly reported among adolescents and adults, and large outbreaks have been reported in this population.”

In its summary conclusion, the study authors write “meningococcal disease is prevalent in India but remains grossly underestimated and under-reported…reliable epidemiologic data are urgently needed to inform the true burden of endemic disease. Further research into the significance of meningococcal disease burden can be used to improve public health policy in India.” 

The commitment undertaken by the World Health Assembly member states to tackle meningitis is a landmark step in fighting the devastating disease. It is incumbent upon member states to work together and within their own borders to transform this commitment into action. 

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