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Diphtheria Outbreak: Nigeria Reports 798 Cases and 80 Fatalities

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has 798 diphtheria cases in eight states across 33 Local Government Areas in the country.

The death toll has also risen to 80 with a case-fatality ratio of 10 per cent as of June 30, 2023.

The NCDC disclosed this on Thursday in a press statement signed by its Director General, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, following the first reported confirmed case of diphtheria in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

The Federal Capital Territory Administration had on Monday announced that the disease claimed the life of a four-year-old child in Deidei District of the FCT.

The NCDC, however, said the FCT Health and Human Services Secretariat has activated the diphtheria Incident Management System to coordinate outbreak response activities.

It said as of July 3, 2023, only one confirmed case has been detected in the FCT, with seven suspected cases testing negative while others are awaiting laboratory results.

The public health institute noted that since December 2022, diphtheria cases have been in Kano, Lagos, Yobe, Katsina, Cross River, Kaduna, Osun states, and the FCT.

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It said Kano state leads with 782 cases.

“The majority (71.7 per cent) of the 798 confirmed cases occurred among children aged two to 14 years. So far, a total of 80 deaths have been recorded among all confirmed cases (case fatality rate of 10.0 per cent),” it said.

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

Despite the availability of a safe and cost-effective vaccine in the country, the majority, 82 per cent of the 798 confirmed diphtheria cases in the ongoing outbreak were unvaccinated, the NCDC said.

“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 (two-14-year-olds) observed, and a national survey of diphtheria immunity that found less than half (41.7 per cent) of children under 15 years old are fully protected from diphtheria.

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“Just like in other States reporting cases, we are working with the FCT Health and Human Services Department to implement control measures and avert the further spread of the disease,” the agency noted.

The PUNCH reports that the NCDC activated a multi-sectoral national Diphtheria Technical Working Group as a mechanism for coordinating surveillance and response activities across the country in December 2022.

“We urge the public to remain vigilant and ensure persons with symptoms of diphtheria present early to health facilities for prompt diagnosis and treatment. Early diagnosis and institution of effective treatment are key predictors of a favourable outcome. Healthcare workers are urged to immediately notify LGA disease surveillance officers once they see a suspected case,” it added.

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