According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, action was being taken in response to reports of cases of diphtheria in the states of Lagos and Kano, while the situation in the states of Osun and Yobe, where cases were just now being discovered, was being watched.
The Agency stated in a statement on Friday that there have been laboratory-confirmed cases in addition to clinically suspected ones.
The NCDC consequently asked parents to make sure that their children were fully immunized against diphtheria as recommended in the childhood immunization schedule, calling for vigilance and the maintenance of a high index of suspicion for diphtheria symptoms by healthcare professionals.
It confirmed that the Agency was working with State Ministries of Health and partners to enhance surveillance and response to the outbreak while informing the public to stay safe at home and in their communities.
Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium species that affects the nose, throat and sometimes, skin of an individual. It is a contagious disease transmitted easily between people through direct contact with infected people or contaminated clothing and objects, and droplets from coughing or sneezing.
People most at risk of contracting diphtheria include children and adults who have not received any or a single dose of the pentavalent vaccine (a diphtheria toxoid-containing vaccine). Others are those who live in a crowded environment, areas with poor sanitation, healthcare workers and others who are exposed to suspected/confirmed cases of diphtheria.
Symptoms usually start after 2 – 10 days of exposure to the bacteria. They include fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, red eyes (conjunctivitis) and neck
In severe cases, a thick grey or white patch appears on the tonsils and/or at the back of the throat associated with difficulty in breathing. The disease is preventable through immunization as recommended by the Nigeria childhood immunisation schedule of three doses of pentavalent vaccine (diphtheria toxoid-containing vaccine) for children in the 6th-, 10th- and 14th -week of life.
Additionally, those who exhibit symptoms suggestive of diphtheria should remain in isolation and contact the NCDC, the state disease surveillance officer (DSNO), or the local government office via the toll-free number (6232).
The Agency advised that close contacts of a confirmed case of diphtheria be closely watched, given antibiotic prophylaxis, and started on diphtheria antitoxin treatment when necessary.