NCDC raises red flag on spread of diphtheria

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, NCDC, has raised the red flag on the spread of diphtheria even as it takes steps to contain the disease after the first verified case in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

The House of Representatives Friday asked the Centre and the Health Ministry to ensure that the illness outbreak was effectively contained and lower the death ratio in confirmed cases.

The NCDC disclosed that a case fatality rate of 10.0 has been seen thus far for all verified cases across the country, totaling 80 deaths.

The Diphtheria Incident Management System has been launched in the FCT to coordinate outbreak response, the Director General of NCDC, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa has disclosed.

He said that numerous diphtheria outbreaks havd been documented by the Center since December 2022 in various states across the nation.

“As of June 30th, 2023, 33 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in eight States, including the FCT, have reported 798 confirmed cases of diphtheria.

“Kano was the location of the majority of the cases (782). Lagos, Yobe, Katsina, Cross River, Kaduna, and Osun are more states with cases. “Of the 798 verified cases, 71.7 percent included kids between the ages of 2 and 14 years old. All confirmed instances (cases) have resulted in a total of 80 deaths to date (case fatality rate of 10.0).

“One of the usual vaccines offered through Nigeria’s childhood immunization schedule prevents diphtheria, which is caused by a toxin produced by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae.

“Despite the country’s access to a reliable and affordable vaccination, 654 (82%) of the 798 confirmed cases of diphtheria in the existing outbreak were unvaccinated. Sadly, this also applied to the newly publicized FCT instance,” he stated.

Regarding the most likely cause of the disease’s reappearance, the NCDC stated that historically low vaccination rates were the main cause of the outbreak given the most vulnerable age range (2 to 14-year-olds).

According to the NCDC DG, fewer than half (41.7 percent) of children under the age of 15 had complete immunity against diphtheria.

Similar to other States reporting cases, he stated, “we are collaborating with the FCT Health and Human Services Department to put control measures in place to stop the disease from spreading further.

“We advise the public to be on guard and make sure anybody exhibiting diphtheria symptoms get at medical facilities early for timely diagnosis and treatment. Key indicators of a positive outcome are early diagnosis and the implementation of efficient treatment.

Healthcare professionals are recommended to alert LGA disease surveillance authorities right once if they suspect a case.

The NCDC stated that the FCT Health and Human Services Secretariat had activated the diphtheria Incident Management System (IMS) to coordinate outbreak response efforts while providing an update on the diphtheria outbreak in the FCT.

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