The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has confirmed 123 cases of Diphtheria disease and 38 deaths in four states.
Dr. Pricilla Ibekwe, Head of the Special Projects and Partnerships Unit at NCDC, disclosed this on Monday in Abuja during the Ministerial bi-weekly meeting on the update of COVID-19 response and development in the country’s health sector.
Ibekwe said that in addition to clinically suspected cases, there had been laboratory-confirmed cases of the disease.
She said the NCDC was working with State Ministries of Health and partners to enhance surveillance and response to the outbreak.
Ibekwe said that based on the latest reports from states shared with the agency as of Jan. 22, about 123 confirmed cases and 38 deaths were recorded in four states.
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She gave a state-by-state breakdown as follows: Kano – 100 confirmed cases and 32 deaths; Lagos – five cases and three deaths; Yobe – 17 cases and 3 deaths, while Osun reported a case and zero death.
Ibekwe said that Diphtheria was a serious bacterial infection caused by the bacterium called Corynebacterium species affecting the nose, throat, and sometimes, the skin of an individual.
According to her, Diphtheria spreads easily between people through direct contact with infected people’s droplets from coughing or sneezing, and contact with contaminated clothing and objects.
“People most at risk include children and adults who have not received any dose of the pentavalent vaccine.
“People who live in areas with poor sanitation, people who live in a crowded environment, and healthcare workers exposed to suspected or confirmed cases of the disease.
“The onset of signs of the disease usually starts after two to 10 days of exposure to the bacteria,” she said.
Ibekwe said that 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,” she said.
According to her, kidney failure, nerve damage, airway blockage, and heart muscle damage were all side effects of diphtheria. However, respiratory diphtheria can be fatal for certain persons.
She said that the organization was working with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to plan a 5-day training on improving diphtheria laboratory diagnosis in Nigeria.
According to Ibekwe, the workshop was intended for laboratory scientists who work in the National Reference Laboratories and lab network of the NCDC.
Ibekwe reported that the agency had sent letters to all state hospitals and community health centers urging them to put in place the immediate and essential public health measures required for the prompt identification and treatment of diphtheria at the state level.
“This was planned before cases were reported as part of preparedness,” she said.
She revealed that the NCDC had issued public health advice to educate Nigerians on risk factors and provide guidance to lower the risk of diphtheria, which was available on its website.
“Such advice included parents ensuring that their children are fully vaccinated against diphtheria with 3 doses of the pentavalent vaccine.
“Healthcare workers should maintain a high index of suspicion for diphtheria.
“Individuals with signs and symptoms suggestive of diphtheria should isolate themselves and notify the LGA, DSNO, or the NCDC through our toll-free line (6232),” she said.