When several people died suddenly late last month in Liberia after attending a funeral in the southern county of Sinoe, alarm bells sounded: Had Ebola returned to West Africa? In 2014 and 2015, the largest known outbreak of the deadly disease killed more than 11,000 people in Liberia and two neighboring countries. But instead of signaling the return of that virus, the outbreak—which so far has sickened 30 people and killed 13—may have highlighted its legacy: a disease-monitoring system put in place after Ebola. Although the public health response was far from flawless, it rapidly stilled Ebola fears and now points to a different disease: meningitis.
On [May 9], just 13 days after the first cases were reported, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta announced that samples from four patients tested positive for Neisseria meningitidis serotype C…[T]he evidence for meningitis is mounting. A Kenyan pathologist who did autopsies … on two of the bodies noted signs consistent with meningitis…
A big question is why N. meningitidis should suddenly appear in Liberia. Since a new vaccine was introduced in 2010, the number of meningitis cases in Africa has dropped dramatically. But that vaccine protects only against serotype A.
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