December 9, 2011 | The Editors

An answer to a century-old question

In Tuesday’s global health quiz, we asked you two questions:

  • Which epidemic disease did PATH and our partners introduce a vaccine against exactly a year ago?
  • Which region is most affected by epidemics of the disease?

Meningococcal A meningitis sweeps across a swath of Africa stretching from Senegal to Ethiopia so regularly that the region is known as the meningitis belt. On December 6, 2010, the Meningitis Vaccine Project, a partnership between PATH and the World Health Organization, helped introduce a new vaccine with the potential to end more than a century of epidemics.

A young woman prepares to be vaccinated against meningitis A
Edwinge Nana got vaccinated last year in Burkina Faso. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

Last year, vaccination campaigns reached about 20 million people in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. Right now, this year’s campaigns are beginning in Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria. By the end of the month, we expect a total of about 55 million people in the region will be protected against a disease that kills one in 10 who contract it and leaves 10 to 20 percent of survivors with severe disabilities.

We’ve already seen some encouraging results. Following the introduction of the vaccine last year, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger reported the lowest number of confirmed meningitis A cases ever recorded during an epidemic season.

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