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Nigeria Declares Diphtheria Outbreak in Four States, Says 14 More at High Risk of Spread

“A comprehensive response plan has been activated to ensure early detection, containment of cases, as well as preventing further transmission through a multi-phased response strategy.”

The federal government has said available data showed that there is currently active diphtheria outbreak in 25 Local Governmemt Areas, in 4 states, namely Bauchi, Katsina, Yobe and Kaduna.

As part of the emergency response to the disease outbreak, the Federal Ministry of Health said it was working in collaboration with the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the states and partners to mobilise all the necessary resources to effectively check the outbreak of Diphtheria cases in four states of the country.

A statement signed by the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Health, Mr. Olufunsho Adebiyi stated: “A comprehensive response plan has been activated to ensure early detection, containment of cases, as well as preventing further transmission through a multi-phased response strategy.”

According to the statement, “available real-time surveillance data is currently showing active diphtheria outbreaks in 25 LGAs in four states, namely Bauchi, Katsina, Yobe and Kaduna.”
Furthermore, it stated that 171 LGAs in 14 states were at high risk of further spread of the diphtheria outbreak.

The 171 Local Government Areas include all the144 in Kano, Katsina, FCT, Yobe, Kaduna and Bauchistates, as well as the twenty 20 contiguous Local Government Area councils in six neighboring states -Gombe, Jigawa, Borno, Nasarawa, Plateau and Zamfara.

Also affected are seven Local Government Areas in Lagos and Osun states.

Adebiyi stated that the partnership with the stakeholders was aimed at achieving an intensified mass vaccination of the identified populations at risk to curb the ongoing diphtheria outbreak.
He explained that vaccination was being rolled out in two phases.

“The immediate phase one response 5-days reactive catch-up campaign) is planned for the affected 25 LGAs in four states from 7th August 2023 and will target children less than 14 years of age.

“Children 6 weeks – 4 years would be administered pentavalent vaccine, while children more than 4 –14 years would be administered Td vaccines during the campaign,” he said.

Adeniyi also stated 171 Local Government Areas in 14 States were being prioritised for full three rounds of catch-up campaign using Pentavalent vaccines (for children less than 4 years) and Td vaccines (for children 4 – 14 years).

He added that: “The 14 states for the phase 2 response are: Katsina, Kaduna, Kano, Yobe, FCT, Bauchi, Gombe, Jigawa, Borno, Nasarawa, Plateau, Zamfara, Lagos and Osun.

“The three rounds of the phase 2 response catch-up campaigns are tentatively scheduled for 21st August 2023 (1st Round), 18th September 2023 (2nd Round) and 16th October 2023 (3rd Round) respectively.”

Diphtheria is a highly contagious vaccine-preventable disease caused by an exotoxin producing bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheria, which spreads mainly by direct contact with an infected individual or exposure to airborne droplets. It is a deadly disease that can affect people of all ages, especially children who are unvaccinated against the disease.

This disease targets mostly the respiratory system of affected individuals and is characterised by signs and symptoms which include fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, neck swelling and difficulty in breathing.

The disease has resulted in loss of many lives across the affected states. These signs and symptoms, if left untreated, could eventually lead to death; and the risk of death is higher in partially vaccinated / unvaccinated children.

“Every individual (and their wards) with the above-mentioned signs and symptoms should please immediately report at the nearest hospital for urgent attention,” he added.

Adebiyi said the dirty and crowded environment was also breeding ground for disease outbreaks.

According to him, the risk of death was higher in children living in crowded areas with poor sanitary conditions.

“There is therefore an urgent need for us to ensure we always keep our environment clean. Since diphtheria is a vaccine preventable disease, keeping up to date with recommended pentavalent vaccines before a child is one-year-old is the best protection against Diphtheria,” he added.

He further said pentavalent vaccines would be given to children at age six weeks, 10 weeks
and 14 weeks (and during campaigns as the need would arise) to prevent diphtheria.

Onyebuchi Ezigbo

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