The National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) have said that 11,587 suspected cases of diphtheria have been reported in the country, out of which 7,202 were confirmed cases from 105 Local Government Areas (LGAs) with 453 deaths.
Diphtheria is caused by a toxin produced by the bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheriae. It is a vaccine-preventable disease covered by one of the vaccines provided routinely through Nigeria’s childhood immunisation schedule.
The NPHCDA and NCDC, in a joint statement on Monday, said a historical gap in vaccination coverage is a driver of the outbreak given the most affected age group (5–14year-olds) and results of the nationwide diphtheria immunity survey that shows only 42 percent of children under 15 years old are fully protected from diphtheria.
“As of September 24th, 2023, there have been 11,587 reported suspected cases out of which 7,202 were confirmed cases from 105 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in (18) States including the FCT. Most (6,185) of the confirmed cases were recorded in Kano.
“Other States with cases are Yobe (640), Katsina (213), Borno (95), Kaduna (16), Jigawa (14), Bauchi (8), Lagos (8), FCT (5), Gombe (5), Osun (3), Sokoto (3), Niger (2), Cross River (1), Enugu (1), Imo (1), Nasarawa (1) and Zamfara (1). The majority (5,299 [73.6%]) of the confirmed cases occurred among children aged 1 – 14 years with those aged 5-14 years bearing most of the brunt of the disease.
“So far, a total of 453 deaths have occurred in confirmed cases giving a case fatality rate (CFR) of 6.3 percent,” the statement explained.
Recall that the coordinating minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Ali Pate, recently set up a national emergency task team, given the escalation of the outbreak and findings that 80 percent of confirmed cases in the ongoing outbreak are unvaccinated.
The team co-chaired by the executive director of the NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib and the director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, is responsible for the overall coordination of all activities encompassing government and development partners’ response activities at national and sub-national levels in the country.
The agencies have, therefore, urged 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.
They also 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.
They said: “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 (DSNO), their State Ministry of Health helpline, or the NCDC through our toll-free line on 6232.
“Close contact with a confirmed case of diphtheria should be closely monitored and managed according to guidelines.”