Meningitis control activities currently rely on the early identification of epidemics followed by a rapid deployment of polysaccharide vaccines. Although the efficacy of these interventions is debated; it is widely recognized that there is only a short lead-time for vaccination once an epidemic is underway. This constraint is because current vaccines lack immunological memory and confer no significant herd immunity nor do they produce long-lasting protection; or protect very young children. Given the association of the epidemics with a dry and dusty environment and their higher incidence in the so-called Meningitis belt , recent research has focused on developing maps that identify the areas at high risk of epidemics and climate-driven early warning systems that could provide longer lead-times for initiating response.
Although not the number one killer disease in Africa, meningitis is one of the most feared diseases and of major public health importance in West Africa. What's most frightening about the disease is the speed at which it develops and the severity of the after-effects:
The goal of the project is to reduce the suffering and death from bacterial meningitis in the Meningitis Belt of Africa by helping public health practitioners and other key stakeholders to increase the effectiveness of current and new meningitis vaccination strategies and programs.
The MERIT project objectives are: