Nigeria has recorded 13,204 suspected diphtheria cases in the current outbreak as of Tuesday.
“As of October 3, there have been 13,204 registered suspected diphtheria cases out of which 8,406 were confirmed,’’ Ifedayo Adetifa, the director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), said.
He told newsmen in Abuja on Tuesday that out of the 8,406 confirmed cases, 6,202 (73.7 percent) of the victims were aged between one year and 14 years.
“Infant victims constitute less than one percent; those between one year and four years are about 14.4 percent; while those between five years and nine years constitute 32.2 percent.
“Those between the ages of ten and 14 years are 27.1 percent of the victims, while those above 20 years constitute 15 percent.
“Records show that most of the confirmed cases were unvaccinated against diphtheria.
“Of the 8,406 confirmed cases, 5,371 (64 %) are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated; 966 (11 %) are of unknown vaccination status, while 2,069 (25 %) are fully vaccinated against diphtheria.
“The recently-deployed National Rapid Response Teams (NRRTs) are offering on-site surveillance and response support in affected states,’’ Adetifa said.
He added that the NCDC had activated diphtheria surveillance and public health measures in 19 states and the FCT. The activation covers 114 local government areas out of the country’s 774 local government areas.
Adetifa explained that through laboratory networking, the NCDC had continued to conduct preliminary and confirmatory testing at sub-national and national levels.
“Currently, NCDC has 14 laboratories in the Diphtheria Laboratory Network with capacity to support diphtheria testing.
“Optimisation of five additional laboratories at the subnational level is currently ongoing.
“NCDC has conducted training for laboratory personnel at the sub-national level on diagnostic processes, quality assurance, biosafety, biosecurity procedures, and data management,” he said.
Adetifa added that installation of laboratory equipment (biosafety cabinets, autoclaves, and incubators) was ongoing in Kaduna, Katsina, and Bauchi states to assist in the optimisation of laboratories there.
He said security challenges were limiting accessibility for some NRRTs in some local government areas, however.
Alexander Chimbaru, WHO deputy country representative in Nigeria, said it was critical for traditional, religious and community leaders to support the vaccination of children.
He described diphtheria as a highly infectious disease and a cause for concern, stressing that vaccines in use are safe and effective.
“Nigeria has the vaccines that provide protection for children from five life-threatening diseases – diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B and haemophilus influenza “type b’’ bacteria which causes meningitis.
“We applaud the government for providing the vaccines free of charge. We will support in surveillance and coordination of activities in terms of communication and community engagement.
“We need to have the communities on board to tackle the disease, however,’’ Chimbaru said.
In another contribution, Mary Boyd, country director of the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, commended the Nigerian government for setting up the task force on diphtheria.