Meningitis scare in Chile: all children five and below to be vaccinated
The Chilean government announced Sunday a plan to combat a very aggressive strain of meningitis, with 45 confirmed cases and ten deaths, and which includes a massive vaccination of all children less than five years in metropolitan Santiago and the arrival to the country of experts from the US and the Pan-American Health Organization, OPS.
For weeks now Chile has been suffering a steady increase of meningitis cases caused by the W-135 strain with great deadly impact but low direct contagion.
“We’ve created a group Plan of Action W-135 to combat and prevent this new bacterium. The situation on Sunday remains the same as on Saturday: we have 45 confirmed cases with W-135 and ten deaths”, said Health minister Jaime Mañalich.
The action plan “will coordinate the vaccination strategy plus the monitoring of field actions currently in process for the implementation of the campaign”.
A vaccination campaign is already in action in one of Santiago’s main neighbourhoods, Peñalolen where the largest number of contagion cases was reported. As of Monday the vaccine program will be extended to five other neighbourhoods so as to have covered all children up to five years by 31 December. The target of the Chilean Health ministry it to distribute 1.9 million doses of the meningitis vaccine.
Meanwhile the head of OPS in Chile Jose Antonio Pagés said that a group of experts from the US and the World Health Organization will be arriving by 20 November to follow in-situ the disease and spread of the bacteria, which is similar to that which attacked Argentina and Brazil, but far “more aggressive”.
“We believe the situation in Chile is under control. Chile detected quite early the problem and acted immediately, but we are concerned that this strain could move to other countries. That is why the experts are coming”, said Pagés.
Meanwhile the Education ministry announced that over 4.000 headmasters from schools in metropolitan Santiago will be given crash programs on meningitis, symptoms, and to help with the vaccination program.
“We plan a constant briefing and updating and hopefully we will also organize lectures for parents and older children so that everybody is aware of the disease”, said Dr Maria Teresa Valenzuela head of Ministry of Health Labs Department.