The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has announced that an outbreak of the deadly throat disease diphtheria has occurred in certain parts of the country due to lack of childhood immunization.
The Director-General of the NCDC, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, emphasized that although diphtheria is a vaccine preventable disease and is also treatable, it is still very deadly and should not be taken lightly.
Dr. Adetifa, who spoke on a television program, explained that the resurgence of the disease in some states in Nigeria is proof that there has been a significant reduction in childhood immunization and vaccination among certain segments of the population.
He said, “Diphtheria, a vaccine preventable disease that used to be common decades ago is on the increase in some states in Nigeria. The fact that there is a resurgence suggests that there is significant reduction in vaccination coverage among pockets of the population and this reduced pockets of immunity has given rise to the cases we have seen.”
The NCDC Director-General also added that the disease is not spreading from state to state, but rather, the bacteria that causes the disease is present everywhere and it spreads. Any state in which the disease is found now is likely to be associated with suboptimal vaccination rates, either in general or in particular segments of the population.
He stated that “failure of childhood vaccination in the failed states is causing the diphtheria outbreaks.”
Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium species that affects the nose, throat, and sometimes, skin of an individual.
The NCDC had placed Nigerians on alert four days ago following the outbreak of the disease in certain parts of the country after responding to reports of diphtheria cases in Lagos and Kano states. The agency is also monitoring the situation in Osun and Yobe states where cases are being reported.
The agency also advised that people most at risk of contracting diphtheria are children and adults who have not received any or a single dose of the pentavalent vaccine, people who live in crowded environments, people who live in areas with poor sanitation, and healthcare workers and others who are exposed to suspected/confirmed cases of diphtheria.
The NCDC also advised that diphtheria spreads easily between people through direct contact with infected people, droplets from coughing or sneezing, and contact with contaminated clothing and objects.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, urged parents to ensure that their children get vaccinated against the infection as the country is still battling Lassa fever, measles, meningitis, and yellow fever.