At least 282 people have died in Nigeria following an outbreak of meningitis. The disease has spread across several states in the north-west and the federal capital of Abuja.

What is meningitis?

Meningitis is an inflammation of the layers of the brain and spinal cord. Infection is the most common cause of meningitis, with viral or bacterial pathogens transmitted via saliva.

Bacterial meningitis is deadly in about one case out of ten, and life-long sequelae occur in one in five survivors. More on meningitis here.

The current outbreak – which began in November 2016 – is the worst recorded in the country since 2009, when at least 156 people died.

The states worst affected are Zamfara Sokoto, Katsina, Kebbi and Niger, with most of the victims aged between five and 14.

The head of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, said almost 2,000 cases have been reported.

"We currently have 1,966 suspected cases across the country; 109 of those have been laboratory confirmed. There have been 282 deaths," he told a news conference in Abuja, according to news agency AFP.

"We are in the middle of significant response in each of these states to minimise the impact of meningitis among our people," Ihekweazu continued.

It is believed the new strain of Cerebro Spinal Meningitis (CSM) is not common in Nigeria and was imported from Niger Republic, Minister of Health Isaac Adewole told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in March. Thus new vaccines are required to immunise people.

Adewole said a team of epidemiologists had been deployed to address the issue, stressing that the ministry was working hard to tackle the epidemic.

The minister also appealed to Nigerians to report all cases of unusual fevers to health facilities and to avoid overcrowding.

"When people are coughing let them be referred to facilities, open windows and ensure that we do not get infected easily, Adewole said. "Children are more susceptible and when they have unusual fever they should also be referred to the hospital."

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