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Pregnant women at risk with tetanus, diphtheria— NPHCDA

Pregnancy conception at age 40 are threats to fertility, expert advises

…calls for urgent immunisation

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) says tetanus and diphtheria are threatening pregnant women, a development that requires urgent national immunisation to save mothers and their babies.

Muyi Aina, executive director of NPHCDA, disclosed this on Tuesday in Abuja.

Tetanus is a bacterial infection caused by clostridium tetani bacterium. It typically enters the body through wounds or cuts and produces a toxin that affects the nervous system.

Tetanus is characterised by muscle stiffness and spasms, often starting in the jaw (hence the term “lockjaw”, and spreading to other muscles.

The infection can be fatal. Immunisation with a tetanus vaccine is a crucial preventive measure.

Diphtheria is a bacterial infection caused by corynebacterium diphtheriae. It primarily affects the mucous membranes of the throat and nose. It releases a toxin that can lead to the formation of a thick grey or white coating in the throat, making breathing difficult.

In severe cases, diphtheria can damage the heart, nervous system, and other organs. Immunisation through the diphtheria vaccine is a key preventive measure, and it is often administered as a part of routine childhood vaccinations.

Aina said that recent cases had shown a direct correlation between these infections and the loss of unborn babies, prompting a call for immediate action. He said that tetanus and diphtheria, once thought as rare, were resurfacing.

“The silent nature of these infections can catch many off guard, especially pregnant women, making it imperative to raise awareness about the potential dangers they pose during pregnancy,” he said.

He said that studies had indicated a disturbing link between tetanus and diphtheria infections in expectant mothers and adverse outcomes, including premature births and fetal loss.

“Understanding the gravity of this situation is crucial for safeguarding the well-being of both the mother and the unborn child.

“Vaccination not only protects the mother from these potentially deadly infections but also creates a shield of immunity that extends to the developing fetus.

“Contrary to concerns, tetanus and diphtheria immunisations have proven to be safe for pregnant women, with negligible risks compared to the severe consequences of the infection,” he said.

He said that timely vaccination was a key measure to prevent the loss of babies due to preventable diseases. He said that a collective effort was needed to ensure that every pregnant woman was informed about the risks associated with tetanus and diphtheria, as well as the importance of seeking immunisation.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), has said that in Epi-Week 48, 2023, 230 suspected cases were reported across six states and 28 Local Government Areas (LGAs).

The NCDC said that, of these, 190 (82.6%) were confirmed cases distributed in 23 LGAs in four states, with two recorded deaths (CFR: 1.1%).

It said that cumulatively, from Epi-Week 19, 2022, to Epi-Week 48, 2023, 20,684 suspected cases were reported in 33 states and 280 LGAs. According to the NCDC, Kano, Yobe, Katsina, Bauchi, Borno, Kaduna and Jigawa account for 96.9 percent of suspected cases.

The agency noted that of 12,086 confirmed cases, 69.4 percent were in children aged one year to 14 years. It added that in response to the outbreak in December 2022, the NCDC activated a multi-sectoral National Diphtheria Emergency Operations Centre as a mechanism for coordinating surveillance and response activities across the country.

“The response activities include coordination, surveillance, laboratory investigation, risk communication, case management and immunisation activities,” the centre said.