The Federal Ministry of Health has issued a warning to Nigerians as the number of diphtheria cases in the country reaches 798. The ministry has urged citizens to take proactive measures to prevent contracting the disease, emphasizing that everyone, particularly children under five and adults over 60 years old, is at risk of infection.
In a health advisory issued by the ministry’s health promotion department, Nigerians were urged to exercise caution and protect themselves against diphtheria. The advisory highlighted specific vulnerable groups, including children who have not completed the required pentavalent vaccination, individuals living in crowded areas, those with poor personal hygiene, and residents of regions with inadequate environmental hygiene and sanitary conditions.
Furthermore, individuals with weakened immune systems, those traveling to affected areas, people with limited access to healthcare facilities, individuals in close contact with infected persons, and healthcare workers in endemic regions were also identified as being at risk.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) reported multiple diphtheria outbreaks across various states since December 2022. As of June 30, the NCDC confirmed a total of 798 diphtheria cases in 33 local government areas across eight states, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Tragically, 80 deaths have been recorded among the confirmed cases.
Diphtheria, caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheriae, is a highly contagious infection that spreads through respiratory droplets and contact with open sores or wounds. Common symptoms include sore throat, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, coughing, difficulty swallowing, and breathing problems, which can lead to airway obstruction. General weakness, fatigue, and hoarseness may also occur.
Early diagnosis is crucial, and while there is treatment available for diphtheria, prevention remains vital. The ministry emphasized the importance of vaccination, promoting herd immunity, and practicing good hygiene to mitigate the spread of the disease. Maintaining clean surroundings and avoiding crowded places were also advised as preventive measures.
Let us all remain vigilant and take necessary precautions to safeguard our health and that of our communities.