BY CHIKA OKEKE, Abuja
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has sought the support of the media in dispelling inaccurate information on the diphtheria outbreak.
Director General of NCDC, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa stated this on Friday at a one-day Diphtheria Media Orientation Session in collaboration with the primary National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), and supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The objective of the programme was to dialogue with the media for enhanced reporting of the diphtheria outbreak and explore direct communication channel in addressing the public health issue.
It drew participants from the Federal Ministry of Health, Federal Ministry of Information, National Orientation Agency, journalists from seven priority States such as Bauchi, Borno, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa and Yobe, as well as development partners from RedCross and World Health Organisation (WHO).
Adetifa pleaded with the public to avoid peddling fake news and sharing unverified information from unknown sources, and only disseminate verified information from the official government channels.
The DG, who was represented by the Incident Manager of NCDC, Dr Bola Lawal disclosed that diphtheria is still prevalent in the country, adding that poor vaccination against diphtheria is the major driver of the outbreak.
He stated that the agency has developed and disseminated Standard Operating Procedures for Diphtheria Antitoxin (DAT) use in health facilities and treatment centres.
Adetifa said that with the support from partners and in collaboration with the State Ministry of Health, that NCDC established Diphtheria Treatment Centres/Wards in the affected states.
“For the first time in any outbreak, the government has made DAT and now IV erythromycin available using its resources through the REDISSE funding and also supported by partners including WHO and MSF,” he added.
This, he believed led to a significant reduction in case fatality rate from about 40 percent during the earlier part of the outbreak when access to DAT was highly limited to about 6 percent.
He encouraged the public or individuals with signs and symptoms suggestive of diphtheria to promptly report to a healthcare facility or designated diphtheria treatment centres.
The Acting Director of Advocacy and Communications, NPHCDA, Hajiya Aisha Tukur lamented that there are lots of rumours and misinformation about the diphtheria vaccine.
She informed that misinformation and misconceptions are dragging the committee set up by the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr Ali Pate from discharging their duties effectively.
Tukur disclosed that vaccine is the most effective mode of preventing diphtheria epidemic, adding that the Federal Government and development partners recognised the role of the media in creating awareness on the dangers of diphtheria.
The Head of Social and Behavioural Change Communication (SBC) UNICEF, Mrs Margaret Soyemi thanked the NCDC and NPHCDA for facilitating the media orientation.
She appreciated the media for their continued support and commitment toward sensitising the public on health programmes at the national and sub-national level especially on the diphtheria outbreak.
Also, the Public Health Infomatics Specialist, Mr Ikemefule Uzoma attributed the high burden of diphtheria in Kano to free flow of people into the state, saying that many visitors were not screened.
He hinted that the weather condition also strengthened the spread of the disease, adding that NCDC had supported states with the highest burden of the epidemic.
The SBC Specailist, UNICEF, Mariana Palavra lauded the efforts of the media in making the connections between the community and facilitators.
BY CHIKA OKEKE, Abuja