The Nigeria Center for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has responded to diphtheria outbreaks in Lagos and Kano. It is also keeping an eye on the situation in Osun and Yobe states.
NCDC Director General Dr Ifedayo Adetifa made the announcement in a public health alert released on Friday as the disease spread across the country.
The agency reported that there have been both clinically suspected and laboratory-confirmed cases, adding that it collaborates with state health ministries and partners to improve epidemic detection and response.
Severe bacterial infection of the nose, throat, and, rarely, skin caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium species.
The advisory stated, in part, that “People most at risk of contracting diphtheria: children and adults who have not received any or a single dose of the pentavalent vaccine (a diphtheria toxoid-containing vaccine); people who live in crowded environments; people who live in areas with poor sanitation and healthcare workers; and others who are exposed to suspected/confirmed cases of diphtheria.”
“Diphtheria spreads quickly 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. Symptoms of diphtheria include fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, red eyes (conjunctivitis), and neck swelling.
“In severe cases, a thick grey or white patch appears on the tonsils and/or at the back of the throat associated with difficulty breathing.”
According to the report, children in Nigeria should have three doses of the pentavalent vaccine between the ages of six and ten and again between the ages of 14 and 16 weeks.
The NCDC further recommended that healthcare providers keep diphtheria as a top priority and that anyone exhibiting diphtheria-like symptoms stay in isolation while reporting the outbreak to their local health department, state disease monitoring officer, or the NCDC itself.
Prophylactic antibiotics and diphtheria antitoxin treatment should be administered to close contact with an individual diagnosed with diphtheria, and they should be observed closely.
It went on to recommend that “all healthcare workers” (doctors, nurses, laboratory scientists, support staff, etc.) who have “high exposure to cases of diphtheria” get vaccinated.