UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- Africa is so far experiencing much lower levels of meningitis cases, compared with those of the same period last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported Friday.
Preliminary reports from 13 countries indicated 2,312 cases, including 324 deaths, during the first six weeks of this year in the belt, which stretches from Senegal to Ethiopia.
The number of cases dropped 29 percent from the figure last year, when 3,274 cases, including 413 deaths, had been reported.
However, major outbreaks have still been reported in Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), while Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Togo have all reported cases of the highly contagious disease.
But it is not enough to reach epidemic levels. And there have been no cases so far in Cameroon or Chad, WHO said.
WHO said major vaccination campaigns are being carried out in both Burkina Faso and the CAR, while assessments are still been made in the DRC and in neighbouring southern Sudan and Uganda.
Meningitis bacteria, which affect the lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord, are transmitted from person to person through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions.
The disease can result in brain damage, hearing loss or learning disability in 10 percent to 20 percent of survivors.