Fear of Meningitis Spurs Kuwait Government into Action

Kuwait, a country where disease outbreaks and infectious diseases are uncommon, was unpleasantly surprised during the first week of the new year when the Kuwait Ministry of Health announced on January 7th that six positive cases of meningitis-Neisseria were identified and being treated in the Farwaniya General Hospital, Muabarak Al-Kabeer hospital, and Amiri Hospital in Kuwait. The Ministry has not released patient identities; however, news reports say these patients are from the Al-Farwaniya Governorate area.

Meningitis-Neisseria is a deadly, rare form of meningitis caused by a bacterial infection. A highly contagious disease, Meningitis-Neisseria is usually controlled by vaccination, especially in areas with a dense population, such as university residential dorms. Meningitis vaccinations are not common in Kuwait, and news of the positive cases resulted in public concern and demand for immediate availability of vaccines. Immediately following last week’s Ministry announcement of the positive meningitis cases, the Kuwait government issued vaccinations for 5,000 healthcare workers who may have been exposed to the meningitis bacteria.

In an effort to prevent spread of meningitis and to respond to vaccination demands, the government of Kuwait attempted a large scale, countrywide vaccination program available to all residents of Kuwait over the age of six years. This effort was criticized for exorbitant costs and impractical logistics, as Kuwait does not have established procedures for immediate countrywide vaccinations. Furthermore, only an approximate 250,000 doses of the meningitis vaccine are available in Kuwait, resulting in the need for an additional 2.75 million doses.  

Due to logistical difficulties and a lack of confirmed or suspected new meningitis cases, the government has decided to refrain from continuing with the nation-wide vaccination. Despite this determination that there is no immediate risk for a large-scale spread of meningitis in Kuwait, the government is continuing development of a meningitis vaccination program to prevent the possibility of such an occurrence in the future.


written by Gilan Megeed

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