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Preventing Meningitis Just Got Easier

The drive to inoculate 20 million West Africans kicks off this week. And this year, doctors have a new weapon in their fight. A new, cheap vaccine.


'Tis the season for Meningitis in Sub-Saharan Africa. Starting December and running through June, the seasonal drought will once again put more than 450 million people across Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Chad, Sudan, and Ethiopia at risk of developing meningitis.

The drive to prevent this by inoculating 20 million West Africans that kicked off this week in Burkina Faso. And this year, doctors have a new weapon in their fight. A new vaccine:


The vaccine works against the group A meningitis strain that causes more than 8 out of 10 cases on the continent. Moreover, it costs less than 50 cents a dose. In the United States, Novartis and Sanofi Pasteur market a single dose of meningitis vaccines against multiple strains of the disease for $80 to $100.

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Meningitis is a bacterial or viral infection that causes inflammation of the meninges – the protective membrane around the brain and spinal cord. It is highly contagious and fatal in one of 10 cases. The Neisseria strain of the disease, found in what is often called the Meningitis Belt of Sub-Sahara Africa is particularly dangerous because it explodes into large epidemics there every five to 12 years. This new vaccine should be a start toward curtailing that cycle.


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