By Asmau Ahmad
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has said that lack of childhood immunisation has resulted in the outbreak of the deadly throat disease, diphtheria, in certain parts of the country.
The NCDC Director-General, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, said although the ailment is a vaccine-preventable disease and is also treatable, it is still very deadly and should not be taken lightly.
Adetifa, who spoke on a television programme, added that the resurgence of the disease in some states in Nigeria was proof that there had been a significant reduction in childhood immunisation and vaccination among pockets of the population.
He said, “Diphtheria, a vaccine-preventable disease that used to be common decades ago is on the increase in some states in Nigeria. The fact that there is a resurgence suggests that there is a significant reduction in vaccination coverage among pockets of the population and the reduced pockets of immunity has given rise to the cases we have seen.
“It is not a matter of diphtheria spreading from state to state, the bacteria that causes the disease is present everywhere and it spreads, and any state in which you find the disease now is likely to be associated with suboptimal vaccination rates, either in general or in particular in pockets of population. Failure of childhood vaccination in the failed states is causing diphtheria outbreaks.
“Kano has the highest number of cases followed by Yobe, by the weekend, there were 34 deaths in total. We are in a good place to help but it is important that patients are recognised early, and the diagnosis made quickly out so that treatment can commence immediately.”
Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection caused by the bacterium called Corynebacterium species that affects the nose, throat, and sometimes, skin of an individual.
At least 34 persons had lost their lives to the disease in the country, with most fatalities in Kano State.
However, the NCDC DG, on Monday confirmed cases of diphtheria disease had risen to 123 with 38 deaths recorded.
The NCDC four days ago had placed Nigerians on alert following the outbreak of the disease in certain parts of the country after responding to reports of diphtheria cases in Lagos and Kano states.
The agency also added that it was monitoring the situation in Osun and Yobe states where cases were being picked up.
The agency in an advisory said that “people most at risk of contracting diphtheria are children and adults who have not received any or a single dose of the pentavalent vaccine (a diphtheria toxoid-containing vaccine); people who live in crowded environments, people who live in areas with poor sanitation, and healthcare workers and others who are exposed to suspected/confirmed cases of diphtheria.
“Diphtheria spreads easily between people through direct contact with infected people, droplets from coughing or sneezing, and contact with contaminated clothing and objects,” it added.
This is just as the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, urged parents to ensure that their children get vaccinated against the infection as the country is still battling Lassa fever, measles, meningitis, and yellow fever.