The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) on Friday said it had taken clinical steps to address laboratory- confirmed cases of diphtheria in Lagos and Kano states and that it is also monitoring the situation in Osun and Yobe states where cases are now being picked up.
The Kano State Government has already confirmed that 25 persons – mostly children – had died as a result of the Diphtheria disease outbreak in the state.
Diphtheria is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium called Corynebacterium species that affects the nose, throat, and sometimes, skin of an individual.
The symptoms include fever, runny nose; sore throat; cough; red eyes (conjunctivitis) and neck swelling.
The NCDC said in severe cases, a thick grey or white patch appears on the tonsils and/or at the back of the throat associated with difficulty breathing.
A statement signed by the Director General of NCDC, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa said, “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.”
The NCDC 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).
According to the NCDC, other categories of persons at risk of Diphtheria are 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.
NCDC further explained the mode of transmission of Diphtheria, saying that it spreads easily between people through direct contact with infected people, droplets from coughing or sneezing and contact with contaminated clothing and objects.
The Centre said that the disease starts with signs and symptoms after two to 10 days of exposure to the bacteria.
On preventive measures, NCDC said Nigeria childhood immunisation schedule recommends three doses of pentavalent vaccine (diphtheria toxoid-containing vaccine) for children in the 6th-, 10th- and 14th -week.
To reduce the risk of Diphtheria, the NCDC offers the following advice: Parents should ensure that their children are fully vaccinated against Diphtheria with three doses of the pentavalent vaccine as recommended in the childhood immunisation schedule while healthcare workers should maintain a high index of suspicion for Diphtheria i.e., be vigilant and look out for symptoms of diphtheria.
It also said that individuals with signs and symptoms suggestive of Diphtheria should isolate themselves and notify the local government area (LGA), state disease surveillance officer (DSNO) or the NCDC through its toll-free line (6232).
In addition, NCDC advised that close contacts with a confirmed case of Diphtheria should be closely monitored, given antibiotics prophylaxis and started on diphtheria antitoxin treatment when indicated.
It urged all healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, laboratory scientists, support staff etc.) with higher exposure to cases of diphtheria to be vaccinated against diphtheria.
Diphtheria Claims 25 Lives in Kano State
At least 25 persons, mostly children, have died as a result of the diphtheria disease outbreak in Kano State.
The state’s Commissioner for Health, Aminu Tsanyawa confirmed the outbreak and death toll last Thursday.
Victims of the outbreak, which is now nine days old in Kano State, are being treated at the Murtala Muhammed Specialist Hospital and Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital in Kano.
From the record of the state Ministry of Health, not less than 58 suspected cases of the disease were documented at the outbreak, while six were placed on admission while 25 patients died as of January 13, 2023.
Already, Médecins Sans Frontières, popularly known as Doctors Without Borders, have established a case management centre at the Murtala Muhammed Hospital and have been providing essential drugs.
While confirming the outbreak to journalists on Thursday, Tsanyawa said the state’s Rapid Response team had been reactivated and an index action plan to check the spread of diphtheria has been put in place.
He said the low routine immunisation, which escalated the spread of the disease, was due to the hard-to-reach areas in the state.
He noted that the state is, however, strengthening its routine immunisation exercise.
Besides the Murtala Muhammad Specialist Hospital designated as an isolation centre, Tsanyawa said other isolation centres would be established, to check the spread.
Tsanyawa said the state health ministry has set up an emergency preparedness committee (EPC), which is currently holding meetings, “with a view to evaluating the casualty figures, reviewing the data and measures to address the situation.”