The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has alerted Nigerians to ensure that their awards are fully vaccinated against diphtheria with three doses of the pentavalent vaccine as recommended in the country’s childhood immunisation schedule.
In a public health advisory issued today, January 20, 2023, the director-general, NCDC, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa said the agency has responded to reports of diphtheria cases in Lagos and Kano states.
Science Nigeria reports that, so far, Kano State has 78 suspected cases of highly contagious bacterial infection have been reported in 14 local government areas of the state.
The state said that 27 samples have been taken to the laboratory out of which eight were confirmed positive and three deaths were registered in the state.
Meanwhile, the state government has set up a diphtheria treatment centre with support from the international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) at the Murtala Muhammad Specialist Hospital where the active cases are receiving treatment.
Adetifa said that diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection caused by the bacterium corynebacterium species that affects the nose, throat and, sometimes, skin of an individual.
According to the NCDC, the symptoms of diphtheria include 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,” he said.
He said the agency is also monitoring the situation in Osun and Yobe states where cases were emerging.
“Data from the Kano State Ministry of Health revealed that the diphtheria outbreak has, so far, killed 25 people with 58 suspected cases and six persons on admission,” he said.
The NCDC boss said in addition to clinically suspected cases, there have been laboratory-confirmed cases and the NCDC is working with states’ ministries of health and partners to enhance surveillance and response to the outbreak.
He said 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 a crowded environment, people who live in areas with poor sanitation, healthcare workers and others who are exposed to suspected/confirmed cases of diphtheria”.
The NCDC DG said that diphtheria spreads easily through direct contact with infected people, droplets from coughing or sneezing and contact with contaminated clothing and objects.
“Individuals with signs and symptoms suggestive of diphtheria are also advised to isolate themselves and notify the local government, state disease surveillance officer (DSNO) or the NCDC,” he said.
Meanwhile, he called on healthcare workers to maintain a high index of suspicion for diphtheria by being vigilant and looking out for its symptoms.