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» 09.03.2009 - Cargo plane plunges into Lake Victoria - 11 feared dead
» 27.02.2009 - 6 killed in a building collapse
» 18.07.2008 - Climate change bleaks Uganda coffee harvest
» 05.02.2008 - Uganda combats demons
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» 10.10.2007 - UN warns food disaster in Uganda

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Society | Health

Uganda bans social gatherings as meningitis toll rises

afrol News, 23 January - The Ugandan government has banned all social gatherings in the west and northern parts of the country after the death of 20 people due to meningitis. Another 150 have been hospitalised since the deadly disease was reported early this year.

The disease which was first reported in reported in Dadamu Sub-county early this month has spread to Ogoko, Ajia, Hoima and Oluko sub-counties, reports have revealed.

A health official, Dr Patrick Anguzu said places such as discos, conferences, markets and other such activities were banned starting Wednesday. "This leaves concerts by Kampala-based singer Bebe Cool slated and the Monday one at Annex Gardens hanging in the balance," the official told Daily Monitor.

Meningitis affects tissues enclosing the brain and spinal cord, making them swell and causing the victim severe headache, fever and sometimes death. It is caused by a bacteria and transmitted through contact with respiratory or throat secretions.

Dr Anguzu said the disease thrives well in congested areas and urged the community to avoid crowds. Most people got infected because initially, they thought the victims had been bewitched, according to local reports.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said one sub-county in Hoima had crossed the meningitis epidemic threshold. There was also concern about Karamoja region where dry weather had set in.

In Hoima, the number of people infected with meningitis has also steadily increased, and according to local reports 14 people had died and 44 others were infected with the deadly disease.

The Ministry of Health is reported to have been preparing to carry out massive vaccination in the affected sub counties next week, of which some of the worst hit sub-counties were missed in the 2007 and 2008 vaccination exercises.

The district vice chairman, Sabo Kamilo, said despite the escalation of the disease, schools would open for the first term on February 2. "We shall still open schools. People must not be scared to send their children to school as the term begins," he said.

Uganda lies within the African meningitis belt, stretching from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east, according to WHO. The region, home to about 350 million people, experiences meningitis cycles whenever the dry season sets in. Up to 30,000 people suffer from the disease each year in Uganda.

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