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Clin Infect Dis. 1992 Feb;14(2):515-25.

Meningococcal meningitis in sub-Saharan Africa: a model for the epidemic process.

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Center for AIDS Prevention, University of California, San Francisco.


Epidemic group A meningococcal meningitis follows a unique and distinctive pattern in sub-Saharan Africa. Advances in molecular and field epidemiology have begun to elucidate the mechanisms of meningococcal meningitis epidemics. Epidemics result from a complex combination of host, organism, and environmental risk factors. Recent studies suggest that "antigenic shifts" in group A meningococcal clones may trigger an outbreak of disease by suddenly decreasing herd immunity within a population. Although the introduction of new group A meningococcal strains into a susceptible population contributes to the likelihood of an epidemic, the presence of additional environmental factors, such as low humidity and coincident respiratory tract infections, are also necessary for an epidemic to occur. Despite the unique behavior of group A meningococcal disease in sub-Saharan Africa, the application of similar methods of epidemiological analysis may be useful for determining epidemic processes for other diseases.

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