Diphtheria: NCDC Harps On Vaccination As Nigeria Records 9,478 Confirmed Cases

In line with efforts to mitigate soaring diphtheria cases in the country, the Nigeria Centre for Disease and Prevention Control (NCDC), has called on the public to, as a matter of urgency get vaccinated.

Director-General, of NCDC, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, said this on Thursday, October 19, 2023, at the Diphtheria National briefing in Abuja.

Adetifa expressed gratitude to the public health workforce for their diligent efforts in preventing and responding to the outbreak, despite the challenges they face.

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He said, as of October 19, 2023, there had been 15,060 reported suspected cases of diphtheria, with 9,478 confirmed cases across 137 Local Government Areas in 20 states, including the Federal Capital Territory.

“The breakdown by states shows that Kano has the highest number of cases at 7,747, followed by Yobe with 841 cases.

“The data also revealed that the majority of the confirmed cases, 71.5 percent were aged between 1 and 14 years, with infants accounting for less than one percent of the cases.

“It was noted that most of the confirmed cases had not been vaccinated against diphtheria, with 59.8 percent being either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated,” he explained.

In response to the outbreak, he informed that the NCDC had deployed National Rapid Response Teams (NRRTs) to affected states, offering on-site surveillance and response support.

He, however, lamented that security challenges had limited accessibility to some locations in affected Local Government Areas.

“The laboratory network has been instrumental in conducting preliminary and confirmatory testing at both sub-national and national levels.

“Currently, there are 18 laboratories in the Diphtheria Laboratory Network across 13 states, with ongoing optimization efforts in Jigawa and Zamfara states. The NCDC has also provided training and technical support to laboratory personnel across states”, he said.

The DG also noted that risk communication and community engagement had been prioritised in addressing the outbreak.

“The NCDC has developed and disseminated public health advisories on diphtheria, as well as social behavioural change materials in collaboration with partners.

“Regular media engagements, school engagements, and social listening on social media platforms are being utilized to raise awareness and address misinformation.

“In terms of case management, Standard Operating Procedures for Diphtheria Antitoxin (DAT) use in health facilities and treatment centres have been developed and disseminated.

“Diphtheria Treatment Centers/Wards have been established in affected states, and the availability of DAT and IV erythromycin has significantly reduced the case fatality rate,” he said.

He advised Nigerians to be aware of the signs and symptoms of diphtheria, such as fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, and red eyes.

“Prompt presentation to healthcare facilities or designated diphtheria treatment centres is encouraged for individuals with suggestive symptoms.

“Vaccination with the Pentavalent or TD vaccine is emphasized as the most effective protection against diphtheria, with the Federal Government providing free vaccines at all Primary Healthcare Centers nationwide.

“The ongoing vaccination campaign in all states is an opportunity for parents and caregivers to ensure their children aged 0-14 years are vaccinated,” he advised.

Meanwhile, the UNICEF country representative in Nigeria, the Chief of Health, Dr Edwardo Celades, appreciated dedicated responders and health workers who have been tirelessly working to treat patients, conduct surveillance, perform laboratory tests, and administer vaccinations.

Celades highlighted the incredible achievements that have been made in a short period, including the vaccination of over 3.2 million children and the treatment of over 6.5 million children.

“This success is attributed to the leadership of organizations like the NCDC, NPHCDA, and the Federal Ministry of Health, as well as the unwavering commitment of the frontline workers,” he said.

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