• Thursday, February 29, 2024
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FG constitutes emergency taskforce as diphtheria cases spike

Diphtheria: Yobe records 117 deaths, 1,796 suspected cases

The Federal Government has set up an emergency task force to stop the spread of diphtheria, a deadly disease that has been confirmed in at least 14 states, with Kano being the epicentre.

This follows the surge in cases of diphtheria. Nigeria recorded an unusual increase in the number of confirmed diphtheria cases, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

From June 30 to August 31, 2023, a total of 5898 suspected cases were reported from 59 local government areas in 11 states across the country.

Data from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control show that the number of suspected cases rose from 176 in May, to 439 in June and shot up to 1, 506 cases in July.

Of the cumulative 8,353 suspected cases reported since the outbreak was first reported in 2022, 4717 cases were confirmed, while 1857 were dismissed as not compatible with diphtheria.

Read also: Diphtheria outbreak: Children most at risk as vaccination coverage lags

At the inauguration of the task force on Thursday in Abuja, Muhammed Ali Pate , the coordinating minister of health and social development, said that the primary objective of the task force was to operate in an emergency mode to prevent the further spread of diphtheria to other states and provide relief to affected communities.

“The 14 states currently affected by diphtheria include Lagos, Osun, FCT, Nassarawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, Borno, Zamfara, Jigawa, and Kano,” he said.

He said that the task force would be co-chaired by Faisal Shuaib, the executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), and Ifedayo Adetifa, the director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

Other members of the task force include Anyaike Chukwuma, the director of public health in the federal ministry of health and social welfare, representatives from the WHO, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the federal ministry of information, and the Northern Traditional Leaders Committee on Primary Healthcare Delivery (NTLC).

The minister underscored the need for extensive mobilisation and sensitisation efforts, particularly through the involvement of the NTLC.

“The public must be aware of the disease, its inherent dangers, and the necessary preventive measures, especially with children returning to school,” he said.

Read also: Bauchi state registers loss of 26 lives amidst diphtheria outbreak

The minister also stressed the importance of the task force team collaborating with the governors of these states to secure counterpart funding, foster ownership, and facilitate mass mobilisation efforts.

According to WHO, diphtheria is a highly contagious vaccine-preventable disease caused mainly by the bacteria – Corynebacterium diphtheriae which can be fatal in five to ten percent of cases, with a higher mortality rate in young children.