FG warns against diphtheria as Nigeria records more deaths

The Federal Government has called on Nigerians to prevent themselves against diphtheria as casualty figures peaked at 80 by officials records.

The Federal Ministry of Health Promotion Department in an advisory issued on Monday, said the disease has an incubation period of two to five days after exposure, and can extend to 10 days in some cases.

The department stated that the disease, a life-threatening infection caused by bacteria, is easily transmitted from person to person through coughing, sneezing and contact with open sore, blister, wound on the skin.

“Everyone is at risk of getting infected with diphtheria, especially childrenunder five years and adults above 60 years.

“Also, children who have not completed three doses of the Pentavalent vaccination, people living in crowded areas, people that practice poor personal hygiene and people living in areas with poor environmental hygiene and sanitary condition are also vulnerable.

“Additionally, people with weak immune system, people that travel to infected areas, people living in areas with poor access to health facility, people caring or having close contact with infected persons with diphtheria and healthcare workers in endemic areas are also at risk,” the advisory read.

Diphtheria is caused by bacteria called Corynebacterium diphtheriae. The bacteria produces a toxin that causes severe damage to the respiratory system, heart, skin and other organs.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, NCDC, had in December 2022, reported multiple diphtheria outbreaks in different states across the country.

However, on June 30, NCDC said it confirmed 798 diphtheria cases from 33 local government areas in eight states, including the FCT.

The centre’s last official figure is 80 deaths recorded from the confirmed cases.

The signs and symptoms commonly associated with diphtheria are sore throat, which can be mild or severe, scratchy and painful, with thick gray or white membrane that covers the back of the throat and tonsils.

Others are swollen and tender lymph nodes in the neck, fever, which can be moderate to high fever, usually above 38°C (100.4°F), cough, difficulty swallowing, rapid breathing and difficulty in breathing, leading to blockage of the airway.

The advisory however revealed that there is treatment for diphtheria but early diagnosis is key. It also advises anyone who experience any of the signs and symptoms to visit the nearest health facility for proper diagnosis and treatment.

On prevention of the disease, the ministry noted that vaccination, promotion of herd immunity and practice of good hygiene would help.

“Get vaccinated, diphtheria can be primarily prevented through vaccination. In Nigeria, three doses of the Pentavalent vaccine is administered to children to prevent the five diseases namely Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (whooping cough), Hepatitis B and Hemophilus influenzae type B.

“The three doses are given as follows: first dose at six weeks of age, second dose at 10 weeks of age and third dose at 14 weeks of age”, the government agency advised.

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