Afghanistan: Three children infected with meningitis

ISLAMABAD, 17 February (IRIN) - Three children in the northern Afghan province of Takhar have contracted the fatal meningitis virus, the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed to IRIN on Monday. "We have sent an investigation team to the area comprising of doctors from the Afghan Ministry of Health and the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan," Asadullah Taqdeer, the national emergency preparedness and response officer for WHO in the capital, Kabul, said.
A helicopter mission was sent to the Chahab district in the province on 12 February, where the three cases were identified along with two cases of pneumonia. Doctors with the WHO-supported team could not confirm any related deaths and believed that they are isolated cases. Taqdeer said the local clinic had been supplied with medicine to treat the patients, and the situation would be monitored for the next fortnight.

Meningitis is an infection within the fluid of the spinal cord and the fluid that surrounds the brain. It is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Children are particularly vulnerable to it.

Viral meningitis is generally less severe and resolves itself without specific treatment, but bacterial meningitis is more virulent and may result in brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disability. Antibiotics can prevent some types of bacterial meningitis from spreading and infecting other people.

There were fears of an outbreak of meningitis following media reports that six children had died from the disease in Chahab. However, this was said to be inaccurate. Taqdeer said another team of health experts was dispatched to the area on Sunday and would report back on the situation this week.


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