BY CHIKA OKEKE, Abuja
As the diphtheria epidemic rages, Nigeria has recorded 9,478 confirmed cases out of the 15,060 reported suspected cases from 137 Local Government Areas in 20 States including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
A breakdown of the cases by States revealed that Kano topped the chart with 7,747 representing 81.7 percent, followed by Yobe – 841, Bauchi – 369, Katsina – 275, Borno – 164 and Jigawa -24.
Also, Kaduna had 18 cases, Lagos – 8, Zamfara – 7, FCT – 7, Lagos – 6, Gombe – 5, Sokoto – 4, Osun – 3, Niger – 2; Cross River, Enugu, Imo, Nasarawa, Kebbi and Taraba had one case each.
Out of the 9,478 confirmed cases, 6,777 representing 71.5 percent were aged between 1-14 years; infants one percent, children aged 1 to 4 years (14.1%); 5 to 9 years (30.6%); 10-14 years (26.8%) and adults within the age bracket of 20 years had 16 percent.
At the second National Diphtheria Taskforce briefing in Abuja, Director General of NCDC, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa stated that insecurity limited the National Rapid Response Teams (NRRTs) from accessing some locations in the affected LGAs.
He hinted that National Rapid Response Teams (NRRTs) were deployed to Kano, Yobe, Katsina, Kaduna, Bauchi, Borno, Jigawa and Zamfara States to provide on-site surveillance and response support in communities and health facilities.
Adetifa noted that NCDC records showed that most of the confirmed cases were unvaccinated against diphtheria, adding that out of the 9,478 confirmed cases, 5,674 (59.8%) were either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, 1,176 (12.4%) with unknown vaccination status and 2,295 (24.2%) were fully vaccinated against diphtheria.
He appreciated the national and state public health workforce who despite the challenges have been diligently preventing and responding to the outbreak.
Through the laboratory network, the centre has consistently conducted preliminary and confirmatory testing at sub-national and national levels respectively.
There are currently 18 laboratories in the Diphtheria Laboratory Network across 13 States, with the capacity to support diphtheria testing, as well as optimisation in Jigawa and Zamfara states.
In addition, the laboratory personnel were trained at the sub-national level on laboratory diagnostic processes, quality assurance, biosafety and biosecurity procedures, and data management.
The DG disclosed that with the support of partners including UKHSA, World Health Organisation (WHO) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) that refresher training were conducted for the deployed NRRTs.
He stated that there is an ongoing installation of laboratory equipment such as biosafety cabinets, autoclaves and incubators in Kaduna, Katsina and Bauchi states to aid the optimisation of laboratories, as well as preparations for laboratory optimisation in Zamfara and Jigawa states.
Adetifa maintained that there is continuous provision of technical support to public health laboratory scientists across states.
He informed that the finalisation of National Diphtheria Laboratory Guidelines is underway, in addition to the finalisation of diphtheria sequencing isolates.
With the support of the World Bank, Breakthrough Action Nigeria and other partners, NCDC designed, validated and distributed diphtheria social behavioural change (SBC) materials to all states.
The DG assured that the agency would continue to develop and disseminate public health advisories on diphtheria.
He disclosed that NCDC would continously engage with state officials on the adaptation of diphtheria SBC materials like e-posters, flyers and jingles to their local languages.
Adetifa hinted that the agency engage with the media regularly to raise awareness and address misconceptions about the diphtheria outbreak, stating that school heads on diphtheria prevention and control measures in communities were engaged in Kano state.
Through the state governments, the primary & secondary school authorities, he informed that community and religious leaders in high-burden states were engaged in diphtheria prevention and control measures.
He promised that NCDC would consistently remain active on social media channels in a bid to address misinformation and disinformation on diphtheria.
Diphtheria is a highly contagious bacterial infectio n caused by Corynebacterium diphtheria. It is a medical condition that mostly impacted the mucous membrane of the throat and nose.
Common signs and symptoms include fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, and red eyes in severe cases, just as the bacteria produces an exotoxin that causes a thick grey or white patch (pseudo-membrane) on the tonsils or at the back of the throat.
This could block the airway by making it hard for the patient to breathe or swallow, thereby causing a barking cough. The neck may swell in part due to enlarged lymph nodes and may frequently confer a bull-neck appearance.