Diphtheria Outbreak: Nigeria Records 798 Cases, 80 Deaths

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has reported a total of 798 cases of diphtheria across eight states, spanning 33 Local Government Areas in the country.

As of June 30, 2023, the death toll has reached 80, resulting in a case-fatality ratio of 10 percent. This information was disclosed by the NCDC in a press statement signed by Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, the Director General of the organization. The statement was issued in response to the first confirmed case of diphtheria in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Earlier in the week, the Federal Capital Territory Administration announced the death of a four-year-old child due to the disease in the Deidei District of the FCT.

To address the situation, the FCT Health and Human Services Secretariat has activated the diphtheria Incident Management System, which will coordinate the outbreak response activities.

As of July 3, 2023, only one confirmed case has been identified in the FCT, while seven suspected cases have tested negative. Several other cases are still awaiting laboratory results.

The NCDC emphasized that diphtheria cases have been reported since December 2022 in various states, including Kano, Lagos, Yobe, Katsina, Cross River, Kaduna, Osun, and the FCT.

Among these locations, Kano state has recorded the highest number of cases, with 782 reported instances.

“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, a disease caused by the toxin produced by Corynebacterium diphtheriae bacteria, can be prevented through vaccination. Nigeria’s childhood immunization schedule includes a vaccine that protects against diphtheria.

However, despite the presence of a safe and affordable vaccine in the country, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) reported that the majority of the confirmed diphtheria cases in the ongoing outbreak, specifically 82 percent of the 798 cases, were individuals who had not been vaccinated.

“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.

“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.

According to Waffi TV, in December 2022, the NCDC established a multi-sectoral national Diphtheria Technical Working Group. This group serves as a mechanism to coordinate surveillance and response activities related to diphtheria across the entire country.

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