NCDC confirms 789 diphtheria cases, 80 deaths in 8 states

THE Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says it recorded 798 diphtheria cases across eight states between December 2022 and June 30, 2023.

According to the statement released by the Centre’s Director General Ifedayo Adetifa on Thursday, June 6, 782 of the cases were recorded in Kano State.

Other states with cases of diphetria are Lagos, Yobe, Katsina, Cross River, Kaduna, Osun state and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Adetifa noted that of the 798 cases recorded in the eight states, 71.7 per cent occurred among children aged 2-14 years.

He further disclosed that a total of 80 deaths have been recorded from all the confirmed cases.

“As of June 30th, 2023, there have been 798 confirmed diphtheria cases from 33 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in eight (8) States including the FCT. Most of the cases (782) were recorded in Kano. Other States with cases are Lagos, Yobe, Katsina, Cross River, Kaduna, and Osun. The majority (71.7%) of the 798 confirmed cases occurred among children aged 2 – 14 years. So far, a total of 80 deaths have been recorded among all confirmed cases (case fatality rate of 10.0%).”

Caused by a toxin produced by the bacteria corynebacterium diphtheriae, diphetria, is a vaccine-preventable disease covered by one of the vaccines provided routinely through Nigeria’s childhood immunisation schedule.

However, despite the availability of a safe and cost-effective vaccine in the country, the majority, 654 (82 per cent) of 798 confirmed diphtheria cases in this ongoing outbreak were unvaccinated.

“Unfortunately, this also includes this recently announced FCT case. Historical sub-optimal vaccination coverage is the main driver of the outbreak given the most affected age group (2-14-year-olds) observed, and a national survey of diphtheria immunity that found less than half (41.7%) of children under 15 years old are fully protected from diphtheria,” he added.

Aditifa assured that the Centre is working to avert further spread of the disease, urging the public to remain vigilant and ensure persons with symptoms of diphtheria present early to health facilities for prompt diagnosis and treatment. 

According to him, early diagnosis and institution of effective treatment are key predictors of a favourable outcome.

He called on healthcare workers to immediately notify LGA disease surveillance officers once they see a suspected case.

On the response of the Centre to the outbreak since December 2022, he noted that NCDC activated a multi-sectoral national Diphtheria Technical Working Group as a mechanism for coordinating surveillance and response activities across the country. 

The response activities include coordination, surveillance, laboratory investigation, risk communication, case management and immunisation activities.

    Diphtheria outbreak in FCT

    On June 4, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Primary Healthcare Board confirmed the outbreak of diphtheria disease in the city following the death of a patient.

    The Director Public Health, Dr Saddiq 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.

    Reacting to the outbreak, The NCDC boss, revealed that the FCT Health and Human Services Secretariat has activated the diphtheria Incident Management System (IMS) to coordinate outbreak response activities.

    “The key activities include but are not limited to active case finding in health facilities and communities, and risk communication and community engagement (RCCE) activities to raise awareness of diphtheria. Sample collection is also ongoing among suspected cases of diphtheria. As of 3rd of July 2023, only 1 confirmed case has been detected, with 7 suspected cases testing negative while others are awaiting laboratory results. No other death was recorded apart from the laboratory-confirmed case,” he said.

    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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