The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has reported a significant increase in the number of deaths caused by diphtheria, a vaccine-preventable disease that was common decades ago.
As of early January 2023, the death toll from diphtheria in Nigeria has risen to 34, with the majority of cases being reported in the Kano State, where 100 cases have been recorded.
According to the NCDC, the deaths occurred between December 2022 and early January 2023 in Lagos, Kano, Yobe and Osun states. The agency attributes the resurgence of the disease to low vaccination coverage across the country.
“The fact that we are having a resurgence of diphtheria now suggests that there have been critical reductions in vaccination coverage among pockets of our population,” said the NCDC. “This reduced level of population immunity has given rise to the cases that we are seeing.”
Diphtheria is caused by the corynebacterium species and is transmitted from person to person through respiratory droplets and contact with contaminated clothing and objects.
Symptoms of the disease range from mild to severe fever, cough, sneezing, sore throat, neck swelling, and difficulty in breathing. Complications may include damage to the heart, kidney, and bleeding with death in up to 21 percent of cases.
The Kano State Health Ministry reported that 100 cases of diphtheria have been identified in the state, with 25 deaths recorded in less than two weeks.
The local government areas where the disease is ravaging include Ungogo, Nassarawa, Bichi, Dala, Dawakin Kudu, Fagge, Gwale, Kano Municipal, Kumbotso, Rano, Dawakin Tofa and Gwarzo.
Experts have urged individuals to take preventative measures to stop the spread of diphtheria, such as improved personal hygiene, the use of face masks, especially among older children, proper handling of respiratory secretion, and appropriate handling of suspected cases by healthcare workers.
They also emphasized the importance of prompt referrals, proper cases management, and getting all eligible children vaccinated as the most effective way to prevent the spread of the disease.
In conclusion, the resurgence of diphtheria in Nigeria highlights the need for increased vaccination coverage and education about the importance of vaccination.
The NCDC and state health ministry are taking steps to control the spread of the disease and provide necessary care to those affected, but it is crucial for individuals to take preventative measures and ensure they and their children are fully vaccinated.