Number of suspected meningitis cases and deaths reported
Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial infection of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The disease mainly affects young people between ages 1–30, occurring sporadically and in small outbreaks worldwide, except in the African Meningitis Belt where large outbreaks are common. Meningitis cases typically present with stiff neck, high fever, sensitivity to light, confusion, headaches and vomiting. Even when the disease is diagnosed early and adequate treatment is started, 5% to 10% of patients die, typically within 24 to 48 hours after the onset of symptoms. Left untreated, up to 50% of cases may die. Bacterial meningitis may also result in brain damage, hearing loss or a learning disability in 10% to 20% of survivors.
In the last 20 years (1991–2010) close to one million suspected meningitis cases were reported among countries of the African Meningitis Belt, including approximately 100 000 deaths. 80 000 of these cases, including over 4000 deaths, occurred in 2009 alone.