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Diphtheria: FG laments shortage of bedspaces as cases continue to rise

Amid the rising cases of diphtheria, a highly contagious and fatal bacterial infection, the federal government decried the shortage of bed spaces to treat patients in affected states on Tuesday.

There are 13,204 reported suspected cases, of which 8,406 were confirmed cases from 114 Local Government Areas in 19 States, including the Federal Capital Territory, as of October 3, according to the National Emergency Taskforce on Diphtheria. In comparison, there were 7,200 confirmed cases as at September 30.

Kano remains the epicentre, with 7,188 cases representing 86 percent. Other affected states include; Yobe – 775, Katsina – 232, Borno – 118, Jigawa -23, Bauchi -20, Kaduna – 17, Lagos – 8, FCT – 6, Gombe – 5, Osun – 3, Sokoto – 3, Niger – 2, and Cross River 2. Enugu, Imo, Nasarawa, Zamfara , and Kebbi have one cases each.

Most of the confirmed cases of diphtheria in the country were unvaccinated against diphtheria. Of the 8,406 confirmed cases, 5,37 are either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, 966 with unknown vaccination status and 2,069 are fully immunised against diphtheria.

Read also Diphtheria outbreak in Nigeria: Children at risk as cases skyrocket

Faisal Shuaib, co-chair of the Diphtheria Emergency Task Force and director general of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, speaking at a press briefing in Abuja, said “In some states where we have issues of inadequate bed spaces for patients, but informed that government would continue to work with states to set up emergency wards for the treatment of patients.

“We continue to support states with procuring, preposition and distributing laboratory consumables and reagents to subnational laboratories. With support from partners and in collaboration with the state Ministry of Health, we have established diphtheria treatment centres/wards in affected states”, he added.

To effectively manage the outbreak, Shuaib said the government is currently optimising five additional laboratories in states to add to the existing 14 laboratories in the Diphtheria Laboratory Network with capacity to support diphtheria testing.

“We have developed and disseminated Standard Operating Procedures for Diphtheria Antitoxin (DAT) use in health facilities and treatment centres. For the first time in any outbreak, the government has made DAT and now IV erythromycin available. These have resulted in a significant reduction in case fatality rate from about 40 percent during the earlier part of the outbreak when access to DAT was highly
limited to about 6 percent now”, Shuaib further said.