The Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, has confirmed the outbreak of diphtheria disease has killed at least 35 persons in the country.
Dr Adetifa said this during a programme on Arise Television on Friday night.
The NCDC had in an advisory issued on Friday said it had responded to reports of diphtheria cases in Lagos and Kano States and was monitoring the situation in Osun and Yobe States where cases are now being picked up.
Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection caused by the bacterium called Corynebacterium species that affects the nose, throat, and sometimes, skin of an individual.
Diphtheria spreads easily between people through direct contact with infected people, droplets from coughing or sneezing, and contact with contaminated clothing and objects.
The onset of signs and symptoms usually starts after two to 10 days of exposure to the bacteria. The symptoms include fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, red eyes (conjunctivitis), and neck swelling.
Adetifa said, “There have now been cases of Diphtheria reported in Lagos, Kano, Yobe, and Osun states. Kano currently has the highest number of cases and this is now closely followed by Yobe state.
“At the time of the report, Kano had recorded about 25 deaths but actually in total, at this week-ending, I think there have been about 34 deaths in total now.
“While this is a highly preventable and a very treatable condition, without the appropriate treatment including antibiotics and diphtheria antitoxin for severely-ill cases, fatality can be high. Otherwise, with early detection and prompt institution of the right treatment, the outcomes are typically very good.”
The NCDC DG said that the disease was a relatively easy condition to treat.
“It responds very well to relatively cheap and commonly available antibiotics. The problem is for the severe cases that require diphtheria antitoxin,” he said.
He also noted that the agency had shared diphtheria antitoxins with the first two states where cases were reported.
He added that plans were underway to extend the antitoxins to other states where cases are found.
The PUNCH reports that during the week, the NCDC trained some laboratory focal persons and experts across the country.
The training was part of activities to strengthen diagnostic capacity for diphtheria in the country.
“The important thing is that patients are recognised early and treated early.
“We are in a good place to help states respond but it is key that patients are recognised early, diagnosis is made quickly and they are placed on the right treatment.
“Diphtheria has been so uncommon that we now have perhaps several generations of healthcare workers who have never seen a case before.
“Those at highest risk are children and adults who never received vaccines, people who live in a crowded environment, and people who live in areas with poor sanitation. Again, there is a bit of low socioeconomic standing associated with this and we have to keep an eye now,” he added.