THE National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has said 83 people in Nigeria died from diphtheria between May 2022 and July 2023.
Addressing journalists in Abuja on Monday, July 31, the Executive-Director of the agency, Faisal Shuaib, a doctor, said between May 2022 and July 27, 2023, the country recorded an estimated 2,455 suspected cases in 26 states.
Of the cases, 836 were confirmed in 33 Local Government Areas (LGAs) across eight states, and 83 died.
The affected states are Cross River, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Lagos, Osun, Yobe, and Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Working with the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), other partners and the affected states, Shuaib said the agency would conduct intensified mass vaccinations for identified at-risk populations, administering Tetanus TD for children four to 14 years and pentavalent vaccines for children under four years.
Diphtheria is a highly contagious vaccine-preventable disease caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheria, mainly spread through direct contact with an infected person or exposure to airborne droplets. It poses a severe risk to people of all ages, particularly our children.
It primarily affects the respiratory system, and symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, neck swelling, and breathing difficulties. If left untreated, the symptoms can lead to death, with a higher risk for partially vaccinated or unvaccinated children in crowded and unsanitary areas.
Shuaib urged that adherence to proper hygiene practices is crucial in preventing the spread of diphtheria. Simple yet effective measures like hand hygiene, good cough etiquette, environmental cleaning, eating nutritious meals, and isolating and quarantining suspected cases can significantly reduce the risk of infection.
He noted that the disease is totally preventable through vaccination. In Nigeria, pentavalent vaccines are used to protect against diphtheria and are administered to children at 6 weeks, 10 weeks, and 14 weeks of age, with additional doses being given during campaigns.
The NPHCDA boss blamed Nigeria’s cases on unimmunized children “despite the availability of vaccines in the country’s routine immunization schedule.”
“Despite the efforts of the Federal Government to provide safe and cost-effective vaccines, a significant number of children remain unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, compromising the country’s goal of achieving population immunity. Suboptimal vaccination coverage has been the main factor contributing to these outbreaks, with the most affected age group being those between 2-14 years.
“The NPHCDA, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health, NCDC, the states, and our partners, is mobilizing all necessary resources to respond effectively to this outbreak. A comprehensive response plan has been activated to detect cases early, contain the spread, and prevent further transmission through a multi-phased strategy.”
The agency’s response to the ongoing diphtheria outbreak will be carried out in two phases, said Shuaib, with phase one covering LGAs across four states of Bauchi, Katsina, Yobe, and Kaduna.
Phase two covers outbreak response in 171 LGAs in six states: Kano, Katsina, FCT, Yobe, Kaduna, and Bauchi.
There will also be targeted outbreak responses in LGAs across eight states, which are Jigawa (8 LGAs), Borno (4 LGAs), Osun (4 LGAs), Lagos (3 LGAs), Zamfara (3 LGAs), Gombe (3 LGAs), Plateau (1 LGA), and Nasarawa (1 LGA).
The ICIR reported Kaduna State recorded eight deaths on July 25.
Earlier on July 4, this organisation reported how the FCT recorded a death from the condition.
In May, The ICIR published a report on how funding and advocacy mitigated the spread of diphtheria in Kano State.
Photo Credit: Center for Family Health