Sunday, June 23, 2024

Nigeria: Nigeria Confirms 798 Diphtheria Cases, 80 Deaths in 8 States

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has reported 798 confirmed cases of diphtheria, resulting in 80 deaths, between December 2022 and June 30th, 2023. These cases were recorded in eight states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Director-general of the centre, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa who disclosed this in a statement on Thursday, said most of the cases (782) were recorded in Kano State.

Ifedayo said other states with cases of the disease are Lagos, Yobe, Katsina, Cross River, Kaduna, and Osun, adding that the majority (71.7 percent) of the 798 confirmed cases occurred among children aged two to 14 years.

He explained that diphtheria is caused by a toxin produced by the bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheriae, adding that it is a vaccine-preventable disease covered by one of the vaccines provided routinely through Nigeria’s childhood immunisation schedule.

The DG regretted that despite the availability of safe and cost-effective vaccine in the country, 654 (82 percent) of 798 confirmed diphtheria cases in the ongoing outbreak were unvaccinated, including this recently announced FCT case.

“Historical sub-optimal vaccination coverage is the main driver of the outbreak given the most affected age group (2-14-year-olds) observed, and a national survey of diphtheria immunity that found less than half (41.7 percent) of children under 15 years old are fully protected from diphtheria,” he said.

Ifedayo noted that the centre was working with relevant authorities to avert further spread of the disease while urging the public on early presentation.

“Just like in other states reporting cases, we are working with the FCT Health and Human Services Department to implement control measures and avert the further spread of the disease.

“We urge the public to remain vigilant and ensure persons with symptoms of diphtheria present early to health facilities for prompt diagnosis and treatment. Early diagnosis and institution of effective treatment are key predictors of a favourable outcome,” he said.

Meanwhile, the House has directed the Federal Ministry of Health, NCDC and the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHDA) to intensify sensitisation and enlightenment campaign to prevent and eradicate the scourge of diphtheria.

The House also urged the Federal Ministry of Health and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control to ensure that the outbreak of diphtheria is contained effectively and reduce the fatality ratio in confirmed cases.

This was sequel to a motion on the Need to Address Emerging Outbreak of Diphtheria in Nigeria, by Hon. Muktar Tolan Shagaya at plenary on Thursday.

Shagaya noted that based on the recent reports of the World Health Organisation (WHO), since the beginning of 2023, about 557 confirmed cases of diphtheria have been detected in Nigeria, affecting 21 of the 36 states and Abuja.

He said diphtheria is a highly contagious vaccine-preventable disease which spreads between people mainly by direct contact or through the air via respiratory droplets.

According to Shagaya, since the outbreak of diphtheria about 75 deaths have been recorded in 21 affected states with the most recent death of a four years old boy in the Federal Capital Territory.

He expressed worry that: “Diphtheria cases are under reported in Nigeria despite the threats it poses to public health, including respiratory complications, heart rhythm problems and other fatal outcomes in situations of late detection.”

Meanwhile, the House urged the secretary to the government of the federation, George Akume to establish an inter-ministerial committee comprising Persons with disability, National Human Rights Commission, Federal Character Commission and relevant MDAs to ensure implementation of the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018.