The goal of the new meningitis strategy is to save more than 200,000 people from death each year.
Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners unveiled the first ever strategy to meet the goals of combating meningitis, a disabling disease that kills hundreds of thousands of people every year.
By 2030, the goal is to eliminate epidemics of the most life-threatening form of the disease – bacterial meningitis, as well as to reduce mortality from it by 70% and halve the number of cases of the disease. Partner organizations have estimated that the strategy could save more than 200,000 lives annually and could significantly reduce the rate of disability among survivors of meningitis.
A strategy called the Global Roadmap to Achieve the 2030 Meningitis Targets was represented by a broad coalition of partners involved in the prevention and treatment of meningitis at a virtual event hosted by WHO in Geneva. It aims to prevent infections and better deliver care and diagnostic services to patients.
“Meningitis, wherever it occurs, can lead to death and disability; it is characterized by a rapid course and serious consequences for health, economy and social sphere, as well as the ability to cause severe outbreaks, said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus . – The time has come to solve the problem of meningitis all over the world once and for all, for which it is necessary to expand access to vaccines and other existing means as soon as possible, initiate new research and search for innovative methods of prevention, detection and treatment of meningitis of various etiologies and improve the quality of rehabilitation care for those who have suffered from the disease patients “.
Meningitis is a severe inflammatory lesion of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, in most cases caused by bacterial and viral infections. The most serious consequences are meningitis, which is caused by bacterial infections, as it kills approximately 250,000 people every year and can cause rapidly spreading epidemics. Every tenth infected person – mainly children and young people – is fatal, and one in five causes permanent disability, manifested in the form of seizures, hearing and vision loss, neurological disorders and cognitive impairments.
In the last decade, meningitis epidemics have occurred in all regions of the world, but most often in the so-called “meningitis belt”, which covers 26 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. These epidemics are unpredictable, can severely disrupt health systems and lead to impoverishment, demanding catastrophic costs for households and communities.
“More than half a billion people in Africa are at risk of seasonal outbreaks of meningitis, but the disease has been neglected for too long,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. – The current transition from emergency “suppression” of outbreaks to strategic measures of struggle is more timely than ever. The current Roadmap will help protect the health and lives of hundreds of thousands of families who fear this disease every year. ”
There are several vaccines that protect against meningitis, including those caused by meningococci, Haemophilus influenzae type b, and pneumococci. However, in many places such life-saving vaccines are not available and many countries have not yet introduced them into their national programs.
Research is ongoing to develop vaccines against meningitis caused by other pathogens, in particular group B streptococcal bacteria, but there is an urgent need for innovation, funding and research to develop new vaccines to prevent meningitis. In addition, it is necessary to improve the quality of services for timely diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation, which should be provided to all infected and those in need of them.
“This Roadmap reflects the aspirations of people and families around the world who were affected by the problem and called for a document to be developed. Through their experience and persistence, the community of stakeholders has been able to get to where it is today, ”said Vinnie Smith, CEO of the Meningitis Research Foundation and the Confederation of Meningitis Organizations (CoMO) , an international organization that includes support groups for patients with meningitis survivors. “We all welcome the common goal of tackling meningitis, and we will work towards it, inspired by the aspirations of these people.”
The new Roadmap details the following priorities for meningitis control and prevention:
achieving high immunization coverage, developing new and inexpensive vaccines and improving prevention and control strategies;
ensuring prompt diagnosis of the disease and optimal patient care;
collection of quality data for the development of preventive and control measures;
providing assistance and support to those affected by the problem, primarily through early detection of the disease and increasing the availability of care and support in connection with its consequences; and
advocacy and communication to ensure broad awareness of meningitis, accountability for the implementation of national plans, and recognition of the right to prevention, treatment and follow-up services.
WHO and its partners are supporting countries to implement the Roadmap, including by developing regional and national mechanisms to help countries achieve its ambitious goals.
“The global roadmap for achieving the goals in the fight against meningitis demonstrates what can be achieved by opposing the global problem with global action,” said Nikolai Zhilbert, President and CEO of PATH . – Progress in the fight against meningitis has stalled for too long; together, we can triumph over the disease that has claimed so many lives in countries around the world. PATH is proud to be involved in the development of the Roadmap and is committed to supporting the development of affordable, commonly available vaccines to help address the problem of meningitis. ”
“We must work together to end all preventable childhood illnesses, including bacterial meningitis,” said UNICEF Director of Health Programs