woman holding meningitis vaccine Albert González Farran/ UNAMID via Flikr

Debellare la meningite in Africa

SEATTLE – I progressi dell’Africa nella lotta contro la meningite A sono uno dei segreti meglio custoditi in materia di salute globale. Grazie alla messa a punto e all’impiego di un vaccino a basso costo, è stato possibile salvare la vita a centinaia di migliaia di bambini e consentire alle comunità che altrimenti sarebbero state devastate dalla malattia di prosperare.

La meningite meningococcica di gruppo A è un’infezione batterica che colpisce la sottile membrana che avvolge il cervello e il midollo spinale, e che può essere mortale. Per oltre un secolo, le epidemie si sono susseguite e diffuse rapidamente in 26 paesi dell’Africa subsahariana, uccidendo e rendendo disabili decine di migliaia di persone, soprattutto giovani, ogni anno. Nel continente africano questa malattia è molto temuta in quanto può uccidere nel giro di alcune ore o danneggiare gravemente il cervello delle sue vittime.

Generalmente le epidemie si manifestano all’inizio dell’anno solare, quando i venti asciutti provenienti dal deserto del Sahara cominciano a soffiare verso sud. L’epidemia che nel 1996-1997 colpì l’Africa subsahariana registrò oltre 250.000 casi e 25.000 vittime, molte delle quali erano bambini. Tra i sopravvissuti, uno su quattro riportò disabilità permanenti quali paralisi, cecità, perdita dell’udito, crisi epilettiche e danni cerebrali.

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