Diphtheria cases rise to 4,717 in Kano, 13 others


Nigeria is currently facing a second wave of a diphtheria outbreak after a first wave of the outbreak was recorded between week 52 in 2022 and May 2023

This is according to the situation report of the disease obtained from the World Health Organisation on Thursday, as there is an increase in the affected population with a rise in the number of confirmed cases and related deaths.

The report showed that no fewer than 4,717 diphtheria cases out of the 8,353 suspected cases have been reported in Nigeria since the outbreak was first reported in 2022.It said the majority of suspected cases were reported from Kano, Katsina, Yobe, Bauchi, Kaduna, and Borno states.

The report revealed that between June 30 and August 31, 2023, Nigeria recorded an unusual increase in the number of confirmed diphtheria cases from 59 Local Government Areas in 11 states across the country.Diphtheria is a highly contagious vaccine-preventable disease caused mainly by the bacteria Corynebacterium Diphtheriae which can be fatal in five to 10 per cent of cases, with a higher mortality rate in young children.WHO’s most recent risk assessment of the diphtheria outbreak in Nigeria has maintained the risk as high at the national level, and low at the regional and global levels.

However, public health measures such as vaccination response, enhanced surveillance for early case detection, case management, and risk communication coordinated by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, in collaboration with WHO and other partners, are being implemented in response to the outbreak.“Of the cumulative 8,353 suspected cases reported since the outbreak was first reported in 2022, 4.717 (56.5 per cent) cases were confirmed (lab confirmed 1 (169; 3.6 per cent), epidemiologically linked (117; 2.5 per cent) and clinical compatibility (4,431; 93.9 per cent)). While 1,857 (22.2 per cent) were discarded as not compatible with diphtheria, 1,048 (12.5 per cent) cases are pending classification, and 731 (8.8 per cent) cases had unknown diagnoses.

“The case fatality ratio dropped slightly from 6.7 per cent during the last update to 6.1 per cent. Of the 4,717 confirmed cases, 3,466 (73.5 per cent) were aged one to 14 years, of these 699 were aged zero to four years, 1,505 were aged five to nine years, and 1,262 (aged 10 – 14 years. More than half of the cases (2,656; 56.3 per cent) were females.“Only 1,074 (22.8 per cent) of the confirmed cases were fully vaccinated against diphtheria, 299 (6.3 per cent) were partially vaccinated. More than half of the cases (2801; 59.4 per cent) were unvaccinated,” the report read in part.

Treatment involves administering diphtheria antitoxin, as well as antibiotics. Vaccination against diphtheria has been effective in reducing the mortality and morbidity from diphtheria dramatically.

Nigeria has recorded diphtheria outbreaks in the past, notably in 2011 and 2022.

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