Meningitis Suspected In Sinoe Deaths

4 victims tested positive for Neisseria meningitidis serogroup C


Four of the 13 persons who died of a mysterious illness in Sinoe County on April 23 have tested positive for Neisseria meningitidis serogroup C, a bacterial form of meningitis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC is based in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States.

Dr. Francis Kateh, deputy health minister and chief medical officer, has confirmed the report from the CDC.

Additional testing is ongoing to determine if the other deaths and 30 other illnesses in Sinoe County, Grand Bassa County and the capital Monrovia following the wake and funeral of a religious leader in Sinoe County are also due to this type of infection.

The CDC said meningitis can spread by respiratory excretions and saliva. Drs. Kateh and Alex Gasasira, the World Health Organization’s representative in Liberia, said on Saturday that tea served at a wake and funeral of a religious leader is suspected in an accidental “poisoning incident.”

Those who attended the wake and funeral had a higher likelihood of falling ill if they drank the tea and reported it tasted different than it should have.

Only 1 of the 30 who got ill and survived was still hospitalized as of Saturday.

Patients suffered abdominal pain, vomiting, weakness, headache and mental confusion. Dr. Gasasira said some of the patients had a hard time breathing and others foamed at the mouth. According to Dr. Kateh, an unusual rash called petechiae developed around the feet and wrists of those who have recovered.

The CDC said it is sending two meningitis laboratory scientists and one meningitis senior epidemiologist to Liberia this week to join the staff from the CDC Country Office in Monrovia in the investigation.

On Saturday, Dr. Kateh said this infection appears to be localized to those that attended the funeral and wake and one close contact.

Neisseria meningitidis

According to the CDC website, bacterial meningitis is very serious and can be deadly. Death can occur in as little as a few hours. Most people recover from meningitis. However, permanent disabilities (such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities) can result from the infection. Neisseria meningitidis, the kind suspected in the Sinoe deaths, rarely occurs in newborns, but is more prone to attack children, youth, young adults and older people.

People spread Neisseria meningitidis by sharing respiratory or throat secretions (saliva or spit). This typically occurs during close (coughing or kissing) or lengthy (living in the same household) contact.

Meningitis symptoms include sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. There are often other symptoms, such as

• Nausea

• Vomiting

• Photophobia (increased sensitivity to light)

• Altered mental status (confusion)

If a doctor thinks you have meningitis, they will collect samples of blood or cerebrospinal fluid (fluid near the spinal cord). A laboratory will test the samples to see what is causing the infection. It is important to know the specific cause of meningitis so the doctors know how to treat it.

Doctors treat bacterial meningitis with a number of antibiotics. It is important to start treatment as soon as possible.


  1. Well, we’ve been down this road before, so let CDC, WHO, the Foreign Pathologist, and whomsoever coordinate their enquiries to ascertain the cause of those mysterious deaths, and find a cure. But the trace of the origin of this deadly attack to food or drink ingested at a funeral is all too frightenedly familiar.

    For lest we forget, a New York Times on – the – ground comprehensive investigations carried out in 2014 on the source of the Ebola rampage tracked it to a funeral on the Guinean side of the Kissi forest. According to the newspaper’s findings, a well – known Kissi matriarch died in Guinea, and the virus was ingested from one of the delicacies at the feast. And when two or three attendees from Sierra Leone and Liberia who were infected returned home, the rest was a nightmarish disaster the people of the Mano River basins are too painfully aware of.

    So let’s contain the temptation to down – play the severity of this outbreak whatever it is. We do remember how respected senators became Ebola – deniers consequently encouraging marginalized communities in places like New Kru Town to (tragically) adopt an apathetic attitude toward warnings from WHO, and other viral diseases experts. They say once bitten twice shy: We can’t afford to forget that.

  2. Brother Moses, though it may not be a proven fact. However, we should not forget that during the warand after, the over 300,000 slaughtered and deaths in Liberia had no grave today. Their bodies only decomposed without burial or graves. The Government that came to power has no idea nor care to take precautionary steps to address this very serious threat to the health of the Liberian people. Now, I believe that it is the consequential period for the country to pay for what they did do. Any disease strikes that is not immediately contained is going to have a consequential proportion.


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