By Asmau Ahmad
The Federal Government of Nigeria on Monday, confirmed 7,202 cases of diphtheria out of the 11,587 suspected cases recorded across 105 local government areas in 18 states, including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
This was disclosed in a joint press statement signed by the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) and other development partners.
The statement noted that most of the confirmed cases were recorded in Kano with 6,185 cases.
Other states with cases are Yobe (640), Katsina (213), Borno (95), Kaduna (16), Jigawa (14), Bauchi (8), Lagos (8), FCT (5), Gombe (5), Osun (3), Sokoto (3), Niger (2), Cross River (1), Enugu (1), Imo (1), Nassarawa (1) and Zamfara (1).
It stated that 5,299 of the confirmed cases, which is 73.6 per cent, occurred among children aged one to 14 years with those aged five to 14 years bearing most of the brunt of the disease.
So far, a total of 453 deaths have occurred in confirmed cases, giving a case fatality rate of 6.3 per cent.
The government, however, said it has been coordinating surveillance and response activities across the country since the outbreak of the disease in December, 2022.
“Given the escalation of the outbreak and findings that 80 per cent of confirmed cases in the ongoing outbreak are unvaccinated, the Coordinating Minister of the FMOH&SW, Prof Ali Pate, set up a national emergency task team co-chaired by the Executive Director of the NPHCDA, the Director General of the NCDC for higher level coordination of outbreak response efforts.
“This includes ensuring optimal collaboration of all relevant health stakeholders in this fight. Other prominent members of the task force include; Director of Public Health-FMOH, representatives from the Federal Ministry of Information, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), USCDC, USAID, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, other non-governmental organisations and development partners,” the statement read in part.
Diphtheria, caused by a toxin produced by the bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheriae, is a vaccine-preventable disease covered by one of the vaccines provided routinely through Nigeria’s childhood immunisation schedule.
A historical gap in vaccination coverage is a driver of the outbreak given the most affected age group and results of the nationwide diphtheria immunity survey that shows only 42 per cent of children under 15 years old are fully protected from diphtheria.
“For the first time for any diphtheria outbreak, the FMOH&SW through NCDC and with WHO support, procured diphtheria antitoxin and more recently intravenous erythromycin and distributed them to the affected states.
“With support from partners and in collaboration with the State Ministry of Health, Diphtheria Treatment Centres/Wards have been established in affected states.
“Intensified routine diphtheria immunisation and reactivated vaccination campaigns in 33 LGAs in Bauchi, Katsina, Yobe, Kano, and Kaduna by the NPHCDA. Mobilised procurement of vaccines and essential logistics for three large-scale outbreak response campaigns in 56 LGAs across seven priority states – Bauchi, Borno, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina and Yobe,” it noted.
To reduce the risk of diphtheria, the government advised parents to ensure that their children are fully vaccinated against diphtheria with the three doses of diphtheria antitoxin-containing pentavalent vaccine given as part of Nigeria’s childhood immunisation schedule.
“Healthcare workers should maintain a high index of suspicion for diphtheria and practice standard infection prevention and control precautions while handling all patients in their care.
“All healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, laboratory scientists, support staff etc.) with a high level of exposure to cases of diphtheria should be vaccinated against diphtheria.
“Individuals with signs and symptoms suggestive of diphtheria should promptly present to a health care facility or designated diphtheria treatment centres and where possible they and/or healthcare workers should notify their LGA, State Disease Surveillance Officer, their State Ministry of Health helpline, or the NCDC through our toll-free line on 6232,” it added.