Nigeria activates public health measures as it registers 13,204 diphtheria cases in 19 states

NCDC DG, Ifedayo Adetifa
Director-General, NCDC, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa


Nigeria has recorded 13,204 suspected diphtheria cases in the current outbreak as of Tuesday.

“As of Oct. 3, there has been 13,204 registered suspected diphtheria cases out of which 8,406 were confirmed,’’ Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, has said.

He told newsmen in Abuja on Tuesday that out of the 8,406 confirmed cases, 6,202 (73.7 per cent) were of victims aged between one year and 14 years.

“Infant victims constitute less than 1 per cent; those between one year and four years are about 14.4 per cent; while those between five years and nine years constitute 32.2 per cent.

“Those between the ages of 10 years and 14 years are 27.1 per cent of the victims, while those that are above 20 years constitute 15 per cent.

“Records show that most of the confirmed cases were unvaccinated against diphtheria.

“Of the 8,406 confirmed cases, 5,371 (64 per cent) are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated; 966 (11 per cent) are of unknown vaccination status, while 2,069 (25 per cent) are fully vaccinated against diphtheria.

“The recently-deployed National Rapid Response Teams (NRRTs) are offering on-site surveillance and response support in affected states,’’ Adetifa said.

He added that the NCDC had activated diphtheria surveillance and public health measures in 19 states and the FCT.

The activation covers 114 local government areas out of the country’s 774 local government areas.

Adetifa explained that through laboratory networking, the NCDC had continued to conduct preliminary and confirmatory testing at sub-national and national levels.

“Currently, NCDC has 14 laboratories in the Diphtheria Laboratory Network with capacity to support diphtheria testing.

“Optimisation of five additional laboratories at the subnational level is currently on-going.

“NCDC has conducted training for laboratory personnel at the sub-national level on diagnostic processes, quality assurance, biosafety, biosecurity procedures, and data management,” he said.

Adetifa added that installation of laboratory equipment (biosafety cabinets, autoclaves, and incubators) were on-going in Kaduna, Katsina and Bauchi states to assist in the optimisation of laboratories there.

He said security challenges were limiting accessibility for some NRRTs in some local government areas, however.

In his remarks, WHO Deputy Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr Alexander Chimbaru, said it was critical for traditional, religious and community leaders to support the vaccination of children.

He explained that Diphtheria is a highly infectious disease and a cause for concern, stressing that vaccines in use are safe and effective.

“Nigeria has the vaccines that provide protection for children from five life-threatening diseases – Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza “type b’’ bacteria which causes meningitis.

“We applaud government for providing the vaccines free of charge.

“We will support in surveillance and coordination of activities in terms of communication and community engagement.

“We need to have the communities on board to tackle the disease, however,’’ Chimbaru said.

In another contribution, Dr Mary Boyd, Country Director of the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention commended the Nigerian government for setting up the taskforce on diphtheria.

“In Nigeria, we are seeing quite a number of deaths of children, up to 14 years of age.

“We are not just addressing this specific outbreak; we are also building systems that will help Nigeria to better respond to future outbreaks.

“We are hopeful that we will come out of this soon and neighbouring countries can take a cue from Nigeria in response to the outbreak.

“Parents must prioritise bringing their babies to health centres for vaccination,” she stressed. (NAN)

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