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Red Cross addresses threat of Ebola and meningitis

A general guide for Ebola outbreak intervention was presented at a meeting in Cameroon last week of representatives of eight central African Red Cross societies, based on lessons learnt in Gabon and Congo in responding to an Ebola outbreak at the beginning of the year, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (known as the Federation) reported on Wednesday. At the same time, they discussed steps to be taken against renewed outbreaks of meningitis, and consolidated strategies for polio and measles eradication initiatives and continuing HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns for central Africa. The participants, from the Red Cross societies of Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe, decided to include an Ebola awareness component in all future volunteer training programmes. They also resolved to lobby their governments to implement Ebola response programmes, to ensure rapid reaction in the event of an outbreak. With regard to meningitis, a statement from the Federation noted that the disease "poses a grave threat to populations in central Africa, as untreated cases can result in mortality rates as high as 50 percent". It added that the disease is highly contagious, as "approximately 25 percent of carriers are asymptomatic, contributing unknowingly to the spread of the disease". A new strain of meningitis known as W135 has hampered efforts to combat the disease in Burkina Faso, a situation complicated by a worldwide shortage of the vaccine needed to protect against the strain. A number of W135 cases have also been diagnosed in CAR and Chad. "This poses a setback to the Red Cross in the region which has been effective in fighting the disease, procuring and providing vaccinations to their populations, where possible," the Federation reported. In response, the Federation will incorporate a response to W135 in its health plans, including promoting self-diagnosis, early response and treatment. Furthermore, volunteer training programmes have been updated to include appropriate health responses to meningitis, including information and awareness campaigns. [For more information on the activities of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, go to http://www.ifrc.org]

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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