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Nigeria: Diphtheria Outbreak Kills 600, Mostly Children

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Since it began in December 2022, a deadly diphtheria outbreak in Nigeria has claimed the lives of over 600 individuals, mostly children. This epidemic is larger than the one that occurred in 2011, with just 98 cases recorded.

The northern state of Kano has emerged as the focal point of this health emergency, taking the brunt of the epidemic and accounting for nearly 500 confirmed deaths. A ray of optimism does exist, nevertheless, as the number of current cases has lately decreased.

Skin ulcers can result from the extremely infectious illness diphtheria, which mostly affects the nose and throat. Coughs, sneezes, and close contact with infected people are the ways in which it spreads, and severe cases frequently result in death.

Unfortunately, a large number of the infected kids were not vaccinated. On a visit to a diphtheria isolation centre in Kano city, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, the director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, highlighted the disease’s preventable nature, saying, “Witnessing the young children suffering from this entirely preventable disease at the center today was profoundly heart-wrenching.”

As of September 24, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) reported 453 confirmed deaths and 11,587 suspected cases. The death toll is still rising.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) issues a warning, stating that insufficient testing and patients’ failure to disclose symptoms may result in higher real rates of infection and mortality. On the other hand, actions like contact tracing have helped to lower the number of cases.

19 out of the 36 states in Nigeria as well as Abuja, the federal capital, have been impacted by this terrible outbreak. The northern states—Kano, Yobe, Katsina, Borno, Jigawa, and Kaduna—are the most severely affected.

Health officials are stressing that vaccination is the most efficient way to address the current issue and are advising parents of children who are either unvaccinated or just partially vaccinated to make sure their children are immunised.

Only 57% of Nigerians, according to the WHO, have gotten the pentavalent vaccination, which protects against five serious illnesses, including diphtheria. The WHO states that Nigeria has to boost immunisation rates to at least 80% of the populace in order to prevent further outbreaks of diphtheria.

The WHO said that the country’s last major diphtheria epidemic was in 2011, with 21 fatalities and 98 infections in Borno state.

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