Nigeria has recorded no fewer than 38 deaths from 123 diphtheria cases in the country so far. This is according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
The states currently facing the disease caused by serious infection of the nose and throat that is easily preventable by vaccine, are Kano, Lagos, Yobe and Osun, respectively.
The nation’s disease control and prevention agency,which disclosed this at a ministerial press briefing, organised by the Federal Ministry of Health,said more cases of the disease were being expected in days ahead,as it spreads to other places.
Speaking through its Director of Special Duties, Dr Prescilia Ibekwe,the NCDC said: “As of January 22, NCDC have 123 confirmed cases and 38 deaths. 100 cases are from Kano, with 32 deaths. In Lagos there are five cases with three deaths. In Yobe there 17 confirmed cases and three deaths and Osun has recorded one case with no death”
According to Ibekwe, besides clinically suspected cases, there have been laboratory-confirmed cases.
Dr Ibekwe said the agency was working with state ministries of health and partners to enhance surveillance and response to the outbreak.
She said,”Given the sub-optimal coverage for the third dose of the diphtheria containing pentavalent vaccine (54% – 2021 MICS & NICS) in the country, we expect more cases from more states.
“The center has collaborated with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to organize a 5-day workshop on enhancing laboratory diagnosis of diphtheria in Nigeria for laboratory scientists working in NCDC’s National Reference Laboratories and its lab network (this was planned before cases were reported as part of preparedness), and;
“Written to all states HCHs to institute immediate and necessary public health measures for timely detection and response to diphtheria at state level”.
Speaking on measures being put in place to prevent the disease from spreading further,Dr Ibekwe said NCDC has published a public health advisory, accessible on its website, which educates Nigerians on risk factors and offers advice, including;
She said: ‘’Parents should ensure that their children are fully vaccinated against diphtheria with 3 doses of the pentavalent vaccine. Healthcare workers should maintain a high index of suspicion for diphtheria”.
She also spoke on how to better understand and contain the prevailing global outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 COVID-19 variants.
She said: ‘’the sub-lineages i.e., XBB.1.5 partly responsible for the current increase in COVID-19 cases in the US and elsewhere have not yet been detected in the country”.
“However, this variant has not been associated with increased severity of illness and now appears to be levelling off”.
“The variants reported in China so far have been those circulating globally including in Nigeria for some time.”