woman holding meningitis vaccine Albert González Farran/ UNAMID via Flikr

Vaincre la méningite en Afrique

SEATTLE – Les progrès de l’Afrique dans la lutte contre la méningite de type A font partie des secrets les mieux gardés dans le domaine de la santé mondiale. Grâce au développement et au déploiement d’un vaccin à bas coût, les vies de centaines de milliers d’enfants ont été sauvées et des collectivités qui auraient pu être dévastées par la maladie prospèrent.

La méningite méningococcie de type A est une infection bactérienne de la membrane mince entourant le cerveau et la colonne vertébrale et peut être mortelle. Pendant plus d’un siècle, l’épidémie qui, chaque année, a balayé 26 pays de l’Afrique équatoriale, tuant et rendant invalide des dizaines de milliers de gens, la plupart en jeune âge. La maladie est très crainte sur le continent ; elle peut tuer en quelques heures ou laisser ses victimes avec des dommages permanents au cerveau.

Les épidémies se déclenchent habituellement au début de l’année, lorsque les vents secs du Sahara commencent à souffler vers le sud. L’épidémie de 1996-1997 a causé plus de 250 000 cas et 25 000 morts en Afrique équatoriale, la plupart des enfants. De ceux ayant survécu, un sur quatre souffre de handicaps irréversibles, dont la paralysie, la cécité, des pertes auditives, des crises d’épilepsie et des lésions au cerveau.

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