A meningitis outbreak has claimed 19 lives since the beginning of the year in Burkina Faso, health authorities said Wednesday at the launch of a vaccination campaign.
"We have counted 19 deaths from 119 recorded cases throughout the country since the start of January," health ministry spokesman Rene Sebgo said.
The southern province of Ziro has been particularly affected, with one local chief medical officer saying over 130,000 doses of the vaccine were being targeted at some 120,000 people aged between two and 30.
"Here we are well over the percentage threshold normally applied before signalling a full (epidemic) alert, which is five cases per 100,000 people," said the chief medical officer, Norbert Djiguemde.
Three of the deaths came from 36 cases identified in his administrative area headquarters of Sapouy.
One of the poorest countries in the world, the west African state is located in a so-called "meningitis belt" stretching across sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east.
The World Health Organisation has warned that the region faces a meningitis epidemic this year.
Meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord, takes two forms. The viral form is milder and usually needs no treatment, while bacterial meningitis can be life-threatening and needs emergency care.