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Mystery illness in Liberia appears to be meningitis – Health Minister

By Asma’u Ahmad

Medical samples from four of the victims of a disease in Liberia have tested positive for a type of bacteria that causes meningitis, the Minister of Health, Dr Bernice Dahn, said in a media reports on Tuesday.

A total of 31 cases of the so-called mystery illness have been reported, including 13 deaths in an outbreak linked to the attendance of a religious leader’s funeral.

Dr Bernice Dahn

While the symptoms are different from Ebola, the sudden deaths nevertheless stirred anxiety about an outbreak of the tropical illness.

The Ebola disease was often spread through burial rituals in the West African country that ended less than a year ago. Seven specimens from the deceased tested positive for Neisseria meningitidis, a particularly contagious strain of bacteria that causes meningitis and other diseases, Dr Dahn told reporters.

“Based on these initial results from the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) Atlanta in the United States, we believe that we are dealing with a probable outbreak of meningitis in Sinoe, which spread to Montserrado and Grand Bassa counties,” she added.

She said the government was investigating options for mass vaccinations against the illness, characterised by swelling of the membranes in the brain and spinal cord. While calling for calm, she added that further laboratory analysis is also under way.

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