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Meningitis is inflammation of the meninges, the covering of the brain and spinal cord. It is most often caused by infection (bacterial, viral, or fungal).
The disease occurs globally, but in sub-Saharan Africa, meningitis epidemics occur every two to three years. An epidemic is a sudden and significant increase in the number of cases of a communicable disease, which may go on rising for weeks, months or years. For example, in 2009, 14 African countries reported 88 199 suspected bacterial cases, including 5352 deaths, the largest number since a 1996 epidemic.
The disease is more common in children, and it may begin as a complication of other diseases such as measles, mumps, malaria or even an ear infection.
Community health workers are present in virtually every community and can play a key role reducing number of deaths caused by meningitis.