Cerebrospinal Meningitis Epidemics; November 1994; Scientific American Magazine; by Moore, Broome; 8 Page(s)
By the middle of April 1988 the meningitis epidemic in N'Djamena, the capital of Chad, was in full swing. The outbreak had begun with a few isolated cases in mid-February; within four weeks nearly 150 patients were being admitted to the city's Central Hospital every day. As the facility ran out of bed space, people were treated in huge army tents scattered throughout the inner courtyards. Despite the best efforts of the Ministry of Health and foreign volunteer agencies, the epidemic spread. A shortage of medicines burdened health workers straining under the fatigue of seemingly endless days. Although a massive vaccination campaign was being implemented that would eventually stem the epidemic, each day threatened to paralyze further the country's fragile health care system.
By the time the scourge ended, 4,500 people had acquired meningitis, according to official statistics. Hundreds, or even thousands more, however, were uncounted. In Chad, as in many African countries, medical care is generally not available to people outside major cities. Meningitis sufferers who lived more than a day's walk from the nearest health station generally did not receive antibiotic treatment. Many died or were left with permanent brain damage.