Niger Closes Schools to Try to Stop Spread of Meningitis

Niger's prime minister on Tuesday ordered all schools around the capital, Niamey, closed until Monday and called for children between 2 and 15 to be vaccinated against meningitis, a potentially fatal disease.

More than 900 cases of the disease have been diagnosed since January, resulting in 85 deaths.

Prime Minister Brigi Rafini said the country needed more than 1 million doses of meningitis vaccine but had only about half that many. He appealed to Niger's allies and the World Health Organization to help make up the shortage.

The country's health minister warned people against getting unauthorized vaccines, saying the doses being handed out might be for the wrong strain of the disease.

The meningitis virus attacks the lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It could lead to deafness and severe brain damage. About half the cases are fatal.