The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has reported a spike in cases of Diphtheria in four states across the country.
As of 22 January, the NCDC has recorded 123 confirmed cases and 38 deaths from the disease.
According to Dr. Pricilla Ibekwe, Head of Special Projects and Partnerships Unit at NCDC, the outbreak is primarily affecting individuals who have not received the pentavalent vaccine, which protects against Diphtheria, as well as those living in areas with poor sanitation and healthcare workers exposed to confirmed or suspected cases of the disease.
Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that can cause severe respiratory illness. It is highly contagious and spreads through direct contact with infected droplets and contaminated objects.
Symptoms include fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, red eyes, and neck swelling. In severe cases, a thick grey or white patch may appear on the tonsils and/or at the back of the throat, which can lead to difficulty breathing. The disease can also cause complications such as airway blockage, heart muscle damage, nerve damage, and kidney failure.
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To control the outbreak, the NCDC confirmed its partnership with the State Ministries of Health and other partners to enhance surveillance and response efforts, as well as collaborating with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to organise a five-day workshop on enhancing laboratory diagnosis of Diphtheria in Nigeria.
The agency is also urging all state Hospitals and Community Health Services to institute immediate and necessary public health measures for timely detection and response to Diphtheria at the state level.
The NCDC has made available a public health advisory on its website, providing information on risk factors and advice on how to reduce the risk of contracting Diphtheria. This includes ensuring children receive all doses of the pentavalent vaccine, healthcare workers maintaining a high level of suspicion for the disease, and individuals showing symptoms of Diphtheria isolating themselves and seeking medical attention.
Just recently, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) warned measles cases could surge in South Africa as classrooms reopen.