BY CHIKA OKEKE, Abuja
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has finalised plans to develop the National Diphtheria Laboratory Guidelines for effective management of the 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 hinted that there is continuous provision of technical support to public health laboratory scientists across the states.
Through the laboratory network, NCDC had conducted preliminary and confirmatory testing at sub-national and national levels respectively.
The agency boosts of 14 laboratories in the Diphtheria Laboratory Network, with capacity to support diphtheria testing while optimisation of five additional laboratories at the subnational is currently ongoing.
Adetifa stated that NCDC organised training for laboratory personnel at the sub-national level on laboratory diagnostic processes, quality assurance, biosafety and biosecurity procedures and data management.
With the support of its partners including UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), World Health Organisation (WHO) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), he said that the agency had conducted refresher training for the deployed NRRT laboratory personnel.
Adetifa noted that there is an ongoing installation of laboratory equipment such as biosafety cabinets, autoclaves and incubators in Kaduna, Katsina and Bauchi states to strengthen the optimisation of laboratories in the states.
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 director general assured that the agency would continue to partner with state officials on the adaptation of diphtheria SBC materials like e-posters, flyers and jingles to their local languages.
He said that the essence of SBC was to raise awareness and address misconceptions on diphtheria outbreak, noting that School heads on diphtheria prevention and control measures in communities were engaged in Kano state.
Adetifa maintained that through the state governments, primary and secondary school authorities, community and religious leaders in high-burden states have been engaged on diphtheria prevention and control measures.
He advised the public or individuals with signs and symptoms suggestive of diphtheria to promptly present themselves to a healthcare facility or designated diphtheria treatment centres.
Adetifa enjoined healthcare workers to maintain a high index of suspicion, notify their LGAs or state Disease Surveillance Officer (DSNO) and contact the State Ministry of Health helpline or the NCDC through the toll-free line (6232) if they suspect diphtheria in any patient.
He pointed out that the most effective protection against diphtheria is vaccination with the Pentavalent or TD vaccine, which is why the Federal Government provided free, safe and effective vaccines at all primary healthcare centers nationwide.
The DG pleaded with parents and caregivers in the states to take their children aged 0 – 14 years to the nearest government health facility for vaccination, which saves lives.