Diphtheria outbreak confirmed in FCT, one death recorded

THE Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Primary Healthcare Board said it has confirmed the outbreak of diphtheria disease in the city following the death of a patient.

The Director Public Health, Dr Saddiq Abdulrahman disclosed this on Monday, July 4, at a media briefing in Abuja.

Diphtheria, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), is a serious bacterial infection caused by the bacterium called Corynebacterium species that affects the nose, throat and, sometimes, skin of an individual.

The disease has already been reported in some states such as Kano, Lagos, Osun and Yobe.

The NCDC attributed the outbreak and the high fatality rate to delays in diagnosis and the absence of diphtheria antitoxin during the early stage of the outbreak.

Meanwhile, the outbreak which had already killed a four years old child in Abuja, prompted swift action as an emergency operation centre has been activated to tackle the outbreak, according to Abdulrahman.

Abdulrahman said the FCT health authorities recorded eight suspected cases and after tests, only one of the cases came positive. He added that community awareness is currently ongoing to mitigate the spread.

“We had one four year-old child that died out of the eight suspected cases that we took the sample to the NCDC general lab which has the capacity to diagnose. 

“Out of that eight only one came positive and one also died. However, the community awareness is already ongoing alongside our partners to strengthen the contact traces of all these cases and mapping the community, specifically the communities at Dei Dei.”

He further called on FCT residents to report any strange symptoms, particularly respiratory challenges to relevant authorities.

Similarly, the Executive Secretary, FCT Primary Health Care Board, Dr. Yahaya Vatsa, said there are over 400 facilities in the FCT where residents can get vaccinated, stressing that vaccine reduces the risk of contracting the disease. 

“The vaccines are available in virtually over 400 facilities in FCT and these facilities are not very far from the communities and individuals. So usually we urge people to actually go to these facilities and get vaccinated.”

Vatsa advised residents to ensure that their children were fully vaccinated, in line with the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule.

“To reduce the risk of contracting the disease, FCT residents are hereby advised to ensure that their children are fully vaccinated with three doses of the pentavalent vaccine. This is recommended in the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule,” he said.

He, however, emphasised the importance for individuals experiencing any of the signs and symptoms to seclude themselves and inform either the FCT Disease Surveillance Notification Officer or the Emergency Operation Center by utilising the toll-free lines provided at the FCT Call Center.

The ICIR had on May 11, reported how advocacy through community leaders and improvement in epidemic preparedness are mitigating the spread of the disease in some Kano communities.

The report detailed how the disease has spread across five local government areas in Kano state, namely, Ndala, Gwale, Ungogo, Nasarawa and Tarauni, resulting in the loss of at least 61 lives while hundreds of residents were admitted to hospitals. 

Data from NCDC showed that 783 patients were on admission, of which 360 were females and 423 were males, as of March 2, 2023.

While the factors for this may also be attributed to low vaccination across the country, Kano State is, however, an exception, according to sources and authorities who spoke to The ICIR, they recorded significant progress in vaccination since the outbreak this year.

    Some residents of these communities who spoke to The ICIR said that advocacy and house-to-house immunisation efforts by the Kano State Government helps in mitigating the spread of diphtheria in the state.

    The NCDC, has also explained that people most at risk of contracting diphtheria are children and adults who have not received any or a single dose of the pentavalent vaccine (a diphtheria toxoid-containing vaccine) and people who live in a crowded environment.

    Also, people who live in areas with poor sanitation, healthcare workers and others who are exposed to suspected/confirmed cases of diphtheria can easily contact the disease.

    The Centre stressed that the disease spreads easily between people through; direct contact with infected people, droplets from coughing or sneezing and contact with contaminated clothing and objects.

    Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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