Diphtheria Outbreak: Ministry, NCDC, others working to enhance surveillance with vaccination – Dr Ehanire

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By Joy Odor

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire on Monday informed that Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) is working with State Ministries of Health team and partners to enhance surveillance and response to the Diphtheria outbreak in Kano, Yobe, Lagos and Osun State with an integrated COVID-19 and routine immunization vaccination to address the new disease.

The Minister disclosed this in Abuja at the Ministerial press briefing on Covid-19 Response, update on Reported Cases of Vaccine Preventable Disease and Development in the health sector through Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, Director General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC).

Represented by Dr. Prescilia lbekwe, the Director, Special Duties in the NCDC, Dr Adetifa who affirmed that investigation, vaccination in the affected areas and treatment of cases are ongoing, also explained that Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection that affects the nose, throat and sometimes, skin of an individual and has been observed in the country with attendant mortalities.

According to the NCDC DG, as at 20th of January, 2023, 100 suspected cases have been recorded from 13 local government areas, of the number, eight were confirmed, three death while waiting more results.

He maintained that plan for a mass vaccination campaign in the identified population at risk in the state with “Pentavalent Vaccine” and other routine immunization antigens is also ongoing.

Dr Adetifa said there is also an ongoing awareness creation and sensitization of the public to take their eligible children for the ongoing vaccination in the state.

“As at 20th of January, 2023 we have recorded 100 suspected cases from 13 local government areas which are Ungogo, Nassarawa, Bichi, Dala, Dawakin Tofa, Dawakin Kudu, Fagge, Gwale, Kano Municipal, Kumbotso, Rano, and Gwarzo respectively.

“Of the 100 suspected cases, eight were confirmed, while waiting more results. We have lost 3 among 8 confirmed and 22 among other suspected cases.

“Currently 27 patients are on admission receiving treatment while 41 have been managed and discharged successful.

“Given the sub-optimal coverage for the third dose of the diphtheria containing pentavalent vaccine (54% – 2021 MICS & NICS) in the country, we expect more cases from more states.

“Deployed of RRT members to support state response, Media engagements with the DG appearing on NTA, BBC, Channels and Arise News to speak on national efforts to containing diphtheria.

“Collaborated with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to organize a 5-day workshop on enhancing laboratory diagnosis of diphtheria in Nigeria for laboratory scientists working in NCDC’s National Reference Laboratories and its lab network (this was planned before cases were reported as part of preparedness), and; Written to all states HCHs to institute immediate and necessary public health measures for timely detection and response to diphtheria at state level.

“To reduce the risk of diphtheria, the NCDC has published a public health advisory, accessible on our website, which educates Nigerians on risk factors and offers advice, including; Parents ensuring that their children are fully vaccinated against diphtheria with 3 doses of the pentavalent vaccine.

“Healthcare workers should maintain a high index of suspicion for diphtheria, Individuals with signs and symptoms suggestive of diphtheria should isolate themselves and notify the LGA, DSNO or the NCDC through our toll-free line (6232)” he stressed.

Speaking on the update of cerebrospinal meningitis (CSM), the NCDC DG noted that they have been notified of rising cases of suspected CSM in Jigawa state, saying preliminary reports are of 117 suspected and 12 confirmed cases, with a CFR of 27% from EPI WK 49 2022 and EPI WK 2 of 2023

Dr Adetifa said the NCDC has deployed a national RRT to support Jigawa State’s response to the outbreak and provided commodities also.

“On the other hand, due to proximity of Jigawa to Yobe and Katsina States, We have also deployed RRT members to Yobe and Katsina States to assess, improve on the level of preparedness and to conduct active CSM case finding for early detection if cases already exist” He said.

He assured that NCDC would continue to respond to other infectious diseases including measles, yellow fever and more, adding that with the recent death of one Healthcare worker from Lassa fever in Nasarawa State, all healthcare workers should have a high index of suspicion for Lassa Fever in individuals that have not responded to standard anti-malaria treatment and treatment for other common infectious causes of fever within 48-72 hours

Dr Adetifa emphasized that vaccination prevents the ongoing outbreaks of diphtheria, meningitis, measles, and Yellow Fever, stressing that Preventing vaccine preventable diseases requires an all of society effort.

He enjoined all to #TakeResponsibility by checking on their family, friends, neighbours, etc to see if they have vaccinated their children accordingly.

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