By Iyemah David
State representatives from Nigeria have gathered in Abuja for a crucial planning meeting to address the ongoing diphtheria outbreak that has affected many regions of the country.
The Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib, at the meeting on Monday in Abuja, said that the representatives came together not just as state officials, but as guardians of health, protectors of lives, and champions in the battle against diphtheria.
Dr Shuaib said that the outbreak has disrupted the lives of many citizens, and the representatives recognised their shared responsibility to confront this challenge head on.
“This meeting was not just about planning, but about the representatives’ commitment, collaboration, and compassion towards the countless lives that depend on their decisions and actions.
“The aim is to ensure that no child, family, or community would have to endure the pain and suffering that diphtheria inflicts,” he said.
He said that the agency had already taken significant steps in its battle against the outbreak, but it’s recognized that the road ahead was still long and arduous.
He, however, said he was confident that together, they could turn the tide and halt the spread of this disease in the country.
“The planning session was not just about numbers and logistics; it is about the passion and dedication that each representative brings to this fight.
“It is about our collective wisdom, shared experiences, and unwavering commitment to the people they serve,” he said.
He acknowledged that their efforts extend far beyond the walls of the meeting room.
“Our decisions would echo through the lives of all those they serve, reaching families, schools and communities.
“In our discussions, let’s aim to be bold in our aspirations and practicals in our strategies.
“We planned to harness the power of science; the dedication of healthcare workers; and the resilience of their communities to figure out the best ways to end this outbreak,” he said.
With a renewed sense of purpose and a clear roadmap for action, he expressed the agency’s deep appreciation for each other’s presence and commitment to this cause.
He said that their vision was a Nigeria where no child suffers from preventable diseases.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has responded to reports of diphtheria cases in Lagos and Kano States and is monitoring the situation in Osun and Yobe States where cases are now springing up.
In addition to clinically-suspected cases, there have been laboratory-confirmed cases and the NCDC is working with State Ministries of Health and partners to enhance surveillance and response to the outbreak.
This includes keeping the public informed on staying safe at home and in their communities.
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 environment, people who live in areas with poor sanitation, healthcare workers and others who are exposed to suspected/confirmed cases of diphtheria.
Diphtheria spreads easily between people, especially when there is direct contact with infected people, droplets from coughing or sneezing, contact with contaminated clothing and objects.
Pentavalent vaccine provides protection to a child from five life-threatening diseases – Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Hepatitis B and Hib.
Signs and symptoms usually start after two to 10 days exposure to the bacteria. It develops to Fever, Runny nose, Sore throat, Cough, Red eyes (conjunctivitis) and Neck swelling.
In severe cases, a thick grey or white patch appears on the tonsils and/or at the back of the throat associated with difficulty in breathing.
The Nigeria childhood immunisation schedule recommends three (3) doses of pentavalent vaccine (diphtheria toxoid-containing vaccine) for children in the 6th-, 10th- and 14th-week of life.