BY CHIKA OKEKE, Abuja
Worried by the upsurge in diphtheria disease, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has established Diphtheria Treatment Centres/Wards in the affected States with support from partners and Ministry of Health.
This comes as the death toll rose to over 453 persons in 10 months, just as the NCDC has developed and disseminated Standard Operating Procedures for Diphtheria Antitoxin (DAT) use in health facilities and treatment centres.
Currently, 19 States of Kano, Yobe, Katsina, Borno, Jigawa, Bauchi, Kaduna, Lagos, Gombe, Osun, Sokoto, Niger, Cross River, Enugu, Imo, Nasarawa, Zamfara, Kebbi, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are taunted by Diphtheria disease.
At the maiden briefing of Diphtheria Emergency Taskforce in Abuja, Director General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), Dr Ifedayo Adetifa said that it was the first time in any outbreak that the government provided DAT and IV erythromycin using its resources.
This, he said was achieved through the REDISSE funding, with the support of World Health Organisation (WHO) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), adding that the efforts resulted to a significant reduction in fatality rate from about 40 percent when access to DAT was limited to 6 percent.
The Coordinating Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Ali Pate had set up the task force on the 14th of September, 2023, given the rising cases of diphtheria in Nigeria.
They were mandated to coordinate and optimise response efforts, as well as ensure optimal collaboration among relevant health stakeholders in the fight against diphtheria.
Adetifa recalled that the taskforce had in September deployed National Rapid Response Teams (NRRT) to Kano, Yobe, Katsina, Bauchi, Borno, Kaduna, Jigawa and Zamfara states to support the outbreak response across all the pillars.
He said that Katsina Federal Teaching Hospital has agreed to waive bed fees for diphtheria patients admitted into their care.
“In some states where we have issues of inadequate bed spaces for patients, we will continue to work with our colleagues in the states to set up emergency wards for the treatment of patients.” he added.
While promising to support states with the procurement, preposition and distribution of laboratory consumables and reagents to subnational laboratories, he assured that the agency would continously facilitate the collection and transportation of samples through third-party logistics services to the national reference laboratory.
Breakdown Of Cases
As at 3rd of October 2023, there was 13,204 reported suspected cases, out of which 8,406 were confirmed cases from 114 Local Government Areas in 19 states including the FCT.
Out of the 8,406 confirmed cases, 6,202, representing 73.7 percent were aged 1-14 years; infants, one percent; children under the age bracket of 1-4 years were approximately 14.4 percent.
Also, children between 5-9 years were rated 32.2 percent, while the statistics of those within 10-14 years was pegged at 27.1 percent. Similarly, adults of 20 years had 15 percent.
Common signs and symptoms of diphtheria 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.
The director- general lamented that majority of persons within the confirmed cases were unvaccinated against diphtheria.
The record highlighted that 5,371 (64%) were either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, 966 (11%) had unknown vaccination status while 2,069 (25%) were fully vaccinated against diphtheria.
Adetifa noted that the recently deployed NRRT is offering on-site surveillance and response support to the affected states in areas of active case search in communities and health facilities.
He disclosed that security challenges is currently limiting accessibility of the teams to some locations in the affected LGAs across the states.