Diphtheria outbreak: NCDC confirms 34 deaths

Our reporter/ The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), has recorded 34 deaths due to a diphtheria outbreak in the country.

Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection caused by the bacterium called Corynebacterium species that affects the nose, throat, and sometimes, skin of an individual.

Basic symptoms of diphtheria include fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, red eyes, neck swelling, and difficulty breathing.

Ifedayo Adetifa, NCDC director-general, who made the disclosure over the weekend while speaking on Arise Television programme, said diphtheria is a vaccine-preventable disease that was common decades ago but was forgotten due to the effectiveness of childhood vaccination programmes.

According to him, the resurgence of the disease suggested that there has been a critical reduction in vaccination coverage in the population.

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“There have now been cases of diphtheria reported in Lagos, Kano, Yobe, and Osun states. Kano currently has the highest number of cases and this is now closely followed by Yobe state,” he said.

“At the time of the report, Kano had recorded about 25 deaths but actually in total, at this week-ending, there have been about 34 deaths in total now.

“While this is a highly preventable and a very treatable condition, without the appropriate treatment including antibiotics and diphtheria antitoxin for severely-ill cases, fatality can be high. Otherwise, with early detection and prompt institution of the right treatment, the outcomes are typically very good.”

The director-general further stated that the disease is easy to treat and responds very well to relatively cheap and commonly available antibiotics.

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“The problem is for the severe cases that require something called diphtheria antitoxin,” he added.

“The NCDC has prepositioned diphtheria antitoxin in the first two states where cases were reported. We have actually shared viles of diphtheria antitoxins in December last year for use in Lagos and Kano states.

“We are also planning to extend it to every state where cases were found.”

Following the reported death of 25 persons, mostly children from the disease outbreak in Kano recently, the NCDC said it was monitoring and responding to cases of diphtheria in Kano, Osun, Yobe and Lagos states.

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