woman holding meningitis vaccine Albert González Farran/ UNAMID via Flikr

Victoria contra la meningitis en África

SEATTLE – El avance de África en la lucha contra la meningitis A es uno de los secretos mejor guardados de la salud mundial. Gracias al desarrollo y la aplicación de una vacuna de bajo costo, fue posible salvar las vidas de cientos de miles de niños y la prosperidad de comunidades que sin aquella hubieran sido devastadas por la enfermedad.

La meningitis A meningocócica es una infección bacteriana (potencialmente mortal) de la delgada membrana que recubre el cerebro y la médula espinal. Por más de un siglo, 26 países del África subsahariana fueron azotados por epidemias que cada año mataron o dejaron con secuelas a decenas de miles de personas, en su mayoría jóvenes. La enfermedad, muy temida en el continente, puede matar en cuestión de horas, o dejar a las víctimas con graves daños cerebrales.

Los brotes suelen darse al comienzo del año calendario, cuando desde el desierto del Sahara empiezan a soplar vientos secos hacia el sur. La epidemia de 1996 y 1997 causó más de 250 000 afectados y 25 000 muertes en el África subsahariana, en muchos casos niños. Uno de cada cuatro sobrevivientes quedó con secuelas permanentes, algunas de las cuales son: parálisis, ceguera, pérdida de audición, epilepsia y daño cerebral.

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