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Meningitis outbreak kills at least 110 in Uganda

KAMPALA (AFP) - A meningitis outbreak in Uganda has killed at least 110 people in nearly two months, officials said Saturday, amid plans to expand vaccinations against the disease.

Health officials said many more people might have died in inaccessible rural areas in the impoverished and mostly restive northern region, since the outbreak was reported in the beginning of the year.

"Accumulatively, a least 110 people have died and up 3,000 cases reported in mainly the West Nile region and in Karamoja regions," Sam Okware, the health ministry's director of communicable diseases, told AFP by phone.

He said half of the fatalities were reported in the northern Arua district.

"Many died in the villages, but the situation is now getting much better," he added.

Officials said health authorities have vaccinated about half a million people and were planning to expand the programme to cover an additional 300,000 others in a efforts to contain the situation.

"Together with the World Health Organisation, we have worked to contain the epidemic and the treatment has been effective," said Health Minister Stephene Malinga.

Meningitis is an often fatal airborne infection transmitted through sneezing and coughing that infects the brain and spinal cord and its symptoms include fever, rash and vomiting.

Despite early diagnosis and treatment, nearly 10 percent of cases are fatal.

In Uganda like in many African nations, outbreaks can quickly turn fatal and take time to control owing to lack of resources.