Burning Issues

1: Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg 2001 Sep-Oct;95 (5):477-80

Risk factors for meningococcal meningitis in northern Ghana.

" Exposure to smoke from cooking fires or close contact with a case puts people at risk of
contracting meningococcal meningitis. "

Hodgson A, Smith T, Gagneux S, Adjuik M, Pluschke G, Mensah NK, Binka F, Genton

Navrongo Health Research Centre, Ministry of Health, Ghana.

Meningococcal meningitis is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the
meningitis belt of sub-Saharan Africa where it occurs in epidemics every 8-12
years. Risk factors for the disease in this setting remain largely unknown. We
carried out a case-control study to investigate possible risk factors among
survivors of a meningitis epidemic occurring in 1997 in northern Ghana. A
structured questionnaire on socio-economic factors, housing and household
overcrowding, smoking and exposure to smoke and close contact with a case was
administered to 505 of the survivors and 505 of age-, sex- and location-matched
controls. Cooking in kitchens with firewood stoves (OR 9.00, CI 1.25-395) and
sharing a bedroom with a case (OR 2.18 CI 1.43-3.4) were found to be risk
factors for disease. Socio-economic factors, overcrowding, smoking and passive
exposure to tobacco smoke were not found to be risk factors. Exposure to smoke
from cooking fires or close contact with a case puts people at risk of
contracting meningococcal meningitis. In the hot dry months, exposure to smoke
from cooking fires should be minimized by encouraging alternatives to cooking
over wood fires, or cooking outside. If wood-burning stoves cannot be avoided,
kitchens should be made larger with improved ventilation.
Meningitis cases
should be nursed in well-ventilated rooms and the number of people sharing a
room with a case kept at a minimum.

PMID: 11706652 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

1999: Outbreaks of meningococcal meningitis in Mendocino County have been reported to California State Health Authorities. The rate of the incidence of the disease was 7 times the national average. Burning Issues has observed that the stricken students attened a beach bonfire the evening before the outbreak. Mendocino County has a high incidence of wood smoke pollution from home heating, restaurants, and open burning. 2002: Update Beach bonfires continue. No effort has been initiated to educate the public to the danger of wood smoke. Public told to wash hands frequently.

1998: Yosemite 2 young boys air lifted out of the park after being striken with meningococcal meningitis. It was observed that there were forest fires in the area that exposed the visitors to intense smoke.

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