Meningitis has claimed 102 lives in Chad since the beginning of the year, Health Minister Ngombaye Djaibe said Tuesday, warning that the outbreak had reached epidemic proportions.
"We're declaring a meningitis outbreak in Chad," he told a press conference. "At present, the cumulative number of cases is 871 (since January 1), of whom 102 have died, giving a mortality rate of 11.7 percent."
The health minister of the poor, mainly arid central African nation said that medical workers had managed to identify different strains of meningitis, including "W 135, a strain held to be very virulent."
The infectious disease causes inflammation of the tissues surrounding the brain or spinal cord, with symptoms including fever, nausea, strong headaches and a stiff neck. In its most severe bacterial form, it can lead to a coma and death.
Meningitis is widespread in west and central Africa, though it can be prevented by vaccination campaigns.
In 2005-2006, more than 100 people died in an epidemic in Chad, but had been relatively spared until this latest outbreak.