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Diphtheria: NCDC places health workers on alert, lists states with fresh outbreak

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has asked healthcare workers to maintain a high index of suspicion for diphtheria by being vigilant…

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has asked healthcare workers to maintain a high index of suspicion for diphtheria by being vigilant and looking out for symptoms of diphtheria.

In a public health advisory issued Thursday night, Director-General, NCDC, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, said the organisation has responded to reports of diphtheria cases in Lagos and Kano states.

He said NCDC is also monitoring the situation in Osun and Yobe states where cases are now being picked up.

Data from the Kano State Ministry of Health revealed that the diphtheria outbreak has so far killed 25 people with 58 suspected cases and six persons on admission.

According to the NCDC, Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection caused by the bacterium called Corynebacterium species that affects the nose, throat and sometimes, skin of an individual.

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The 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.

Adetifa said in addition to clinically suspected cases, there have been laboratory-confirmed cases, and the NCDC is working with state ministries of health and partners to enhance surveillance and response to the outbreak.

He said people most at risk of contracting diphtheria are:

• 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 a crowded environment.
• People who live in areas with poor sanitation.
• Healthcare workers and others who are exposed to suspected/confirmed cases of diphtheria.

NCDC says diphtheria spreads easily between people through; direct contact with infected people, droplets from coughing or sneezing, and contact with contaminated clothing and objects.

It advised parents to ensure that their children are fully vaccinated against diphtheria with three doses of the pentavalent vaccine as recommended in the childhood immunisation schedule.

Individuals with signs and symptoms suggestive of diphtheria were also advised to isolate themselves and notify the local government area , state disease surveillance officer (DSNO) or the NCDC.

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