In the wake of a meningitis outbreak in Niger republic capital, Niamey which has so far claimed 85 lives, schools have been shut down.

Authorities report that a shortage of vaccines to treat the current strain has caused the outbreak to spread.

BBC reports that a campaign to vaccinate all children between 3 and 15 will begin on Friday, but only half of the 1.2 million doses needed are currently available. To this end the prime minister, Brigi Rafini has asked for help with getting the remaining doses.

Meanwhile,  authorities have warned people against using unauthorised vaccines, saying the doses might be for the wrong strain of the disease.

A total of  905 cases have been recorded in 7 of the country's 8 regions, but mostly in Niamey and Dosso where it is now endemic.

Explaining the reason for shutting down the schools, the country's Health Minister Mano Aghali, told the BBC French Service that they need to understand why the strain has become epidemic.

Meningitis is an infection of the meninges, the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms can include severe headaches, fever, drowsiness, stiff neck, vomiting, confusion and a fear of light. A rash may also appear.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says it can cause severe brain damage and is fatal in 50% of cases if untreated.