EIGHT deaths and 56 suspected meningitis cases have been reported in the Oshikango Constituency of the Ohangwena Region this week.
Of the suspected cases, 15 have been confirmed positive.
In response to the outbreak, the Ministry of Health has dispatched 80 000 meningitis vaccine doses to the North this week, and has launched a vaccination campaign in response to the highly infectious disease.
According to the Director of Health in the Ohangwena Region, Kaino Pohamba, two strains of meningitis have been identified, namely Neisseria Meningitis and Streptococcus Pneumonia, which mainly affect older children.
Pohamba said of the eight deaths, three people died after contracting Neisseria Meningitis while one died from Streptococcus Pneumonia. The other four deaths were suspected cases, but she said it could be concluded that they died from one of the two strains.
"Most of the people diagnosed with meningitis are those from Oshikango and its surroundings," said Pohamba.
She added that the immunisation campaign that started on Tuesday has been successful thus far, but many people still had to be vaccinated.
By yesterday, approximately 24 000 of the 80 000 targeted people had been vaccinated, with health authorities focusing on schools to ensure that all children under 18 are vaccinated.
Speaking to The Namibian yesterday, Primus Shilunga of the Ministry of Health's Epidemiology Department said the vaccination campaign would continue into next week.
"Meningitis is highly infectious, especially in overcrowded areas, which is why we are targeting the schools," Shilunga said. "In an open environment, the risk is very low."
Inmates at the Ohangwena prison have also been vaccinated.
The first suspected cases of meningitis were reported at the end of May, but the disease could only be considered an outbreak after it passed a certain threshold.
Asked how the spread of meningitis beyond the Oshikango area would be dealt with, Shilunga said "it is risky to travel, but we can't restrict people from travelling".
He said in addition to going for vaccination - which takes between seven to 10 days for immunity to develop - people should be on the look out for meningitis symptoms.
Symptoms include: headaches, neck stiffness, fever and dizziness. In severe cases, someone with meningitis might fall into a coma, while in young children, a bulging/protruding fontanelle (a soft spot on top of a baby's head) may be present.