Diphtheria spreads to 18 states as Nigeria records 7,202 confirmed cases, 453 deaths

Diphtheria spreads to 18 states as Nigeria records 7,202 confirmed cases, 453 deaths

Diphtheria spreads to 18 states in Nigeria as confirmed cases rise to 7,202 and 453 deaths has been recorded in 105 Local Government Areas across 18 states.

In a joint press statement issued by the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, and other development partners, government noted that a historical gap in vaccination coverage is a driver of the outbreak given that the most affected age group (5–14year-olds) and results of the nationwide diphtheria immunity survey that shows only 42% of children under 15 years old are fully protected from diphtheria.

The agencies stated that the most effective protection against diphtheria is vaccination with the Pentavalent or TD vaccine adding that the Federal Government of Nigeria provides free, safe, and effective vaccines at all Primary Healthcare Centres nationwide.

According to the statement, most of the confirmed cases were recorded in Kano with 6,185 cases while Yobe state has 640 cases, Katsina 213 cases, Borno 95 cases , Kaduna (16) and Jigawa (14).

Others are Bauchi (eight), Lagos (eight), FCT (five), Gombe (five), Osun (three), Sokoto (three), Niger (two), Cross River (one), Enugu (one), IMO (one), Nasarawa (one) and Zamfara (one).

The statement revealed that 5,299 of the confirmed cases, representing 73.6 per cent, occurred among children aged one to 14 years with those aged five to 14 years bearing most of the brunt of the disease.

The statement read, “Given the escalation of the outbreak and findings that 80 per cent of confirmed cases in the ongoing outbreak are unvaccinated, the Honourable Coordinating Minister of the FMOH&SW, Prof Ali Pate, set up a national emergency task team co-chaired by the Executive Director of the NPHCDA, the Director General of the NCDC for higher level coordination of outbreak response efforts.

“This includes ensuring optimal collaboration of all relevant health stakeholders in this fight. Other prominent members of the task force include the director of Public Health-FMOH, representatives from the Federal Ministry of Information, the World Health Organisation, the United Nations Children’s Fund, USCDC, USAID, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, other non-governmental organisations and development partners,” the statement read in part.

Government advised parents to ensure that their children are fully vaccinated against diphtheria with the three doses of diphtheria antitoxin-containing pentavalent vaccine given as part of Nigeria’s childhood immunisation schedule.
It urged healthcare workers to maintain a high index of suspicion for diphtheria and practice standard infection prevention and control precautions while handling all patients in their care.

According to the government, “All healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, laboratory scientists, support staff etc.) with a high level of exposure to cases of diphtheria should be vaccinated against diphtheria.

“Individuals with signs and symptoms suggestive of diphtheria should promptly present to a health care facility or designated diphtheria treatment centres and where possible they and/or healthcare workers should notify their LGA, State Disease Surveillance Officer, their State Ministry of Health helpline, or the NCDC through our toll-free line on 6232,” it added.

The government, noted that it has been coordinating surveillance and response activities across the country since the outbreak of the disease in December 2022 adding that Diphtheria, caused by a toxin produced by the bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheriae, is a vaccine-preventable disease covered by one of the vaccines provided routinely through Nigeria’s childhood immunisation schedule.

“With support from partners and in collaboration with the State Ministry of Health, Diphtheria Treatment Centres/Wards have been established in affected states,intensified routine diphtheria immunisation and reactivated vaccination campaigns in 33 LGAs in Bauchi, Katsina, Yobe, Kano, and Kaduna by the NPHCDA. Mobilised procurement of vaccines and essential logistics for three large-scale outbreak response campaigns in 56 LGAs across seven priority states – Bauchi, Borno, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina and Yobe,” it noted.