Each year, 450 million persons in a region of sub-Saharan Africa known as the \"meningitis belt\" are at risk for death and disability from epidemic meningitis caused by serogroup A Neisseria meningitidis (1). In 2009, the first serogroup A meningococcal conjugate vaccine (PsA-TT) developed solely for Africa (MenAfriVac, Serum Institute of India, Ltd.), was licensed for persons aged 1–29 years. During 2010–2011, the vaccine was introduced in the hyperendemic countries of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger through mass campaigns. Strong meningitis surveillance is critical for evaluating the impact of PsA-TT because it was licensed based on safety and immunogenicity data without field effectiveness trials. Case-based surveillance, which includes the collection of epidemiologic and laboratory data on individual cases year-round, is recommended for countries that aim to evaluate the vaccine's impact. A key component of case-based surveillance is expansion of laboratory confirmation to include every case of bacterial meningitis because multiple meningococcal serogroups and different pathogens such as Haemophilus influenzae type b and Streptococcus pneumoniae cause meningitis that is clinically indistinguishable from that caused by serogroup A Neisseria meningitidis. Before the introduction of PsA-TT, evaluations of the existing meningitis surveillance in Burkina Faso and Mali were conducted to assess the capacity for case-based surveillance. This report describes the results of those evaluations, which found that surveillance infrastructures were strong but opportunities existed for improving data management, handling of specimens shipped to reference laboratories, and laboratory capacity for confirming cases. These findings underscore the need to evaluate surveillance before vaccine introduction so that activities to strengthen surveillance are tailored to a country's needs and capacities.
Djingarey, M.; Kandolo, D.; Lingani, C.; Diomande, F.; Medah, I.; Kambou, L.; Tarbangdo, F.; Diarra, S.; Toure, K.; Bougoudogo, F.; Mandal, S.; Novak, R.T.; Cohn, A.C.; Clark, T.A.; Messonnier, N.E. Evaluation of Meningitis Surveillance Before Introduction of Serogroup A Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine - Burkina Faso and Mali. MMWR : Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (2012) 61 (50) 1025-1028.