The Federal Ministry of Health has urged Nigerians to make conscious efforts to avoid contracting diphtheria, adding that everyone is at risk of being infected with the disease, especially children under five and adults above 60 years.
On Monday, the Ministry’s Health Promotion Department issued a health advisory, asking Nigerians to be cautious and protect themselves. The Ministry advisory cautioned that children who have not completed three doses of the pentavalent vaccination, people living in crowded areas, people practicing poor personal hygiene and living in areas with poor environmental hygiene and sanitary conditions should take extra caution as they are also vulnerable.
“Additionally, people with weak immune systems, people that travel to infected areas, people living in areas with poor access to health facilities, people caring or having close contact with infected persons with diphtheria and healthcare workers in endemic areas are also at risk,” the Ministry said.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), had since December 2022, reported multiple diphtheria outbreaks in different states. As of June 30, NCDC confirmed 798 diphtheria cases from 33 local government areas in eight states, including the FCT.
The Centre added that 80 deaths were recorded from the confirmed cases. The department explained that the disease, a life-threatening infection caused by a bacteria called Corynebacterium diphtheriae, is easily transmitted from person to person through coughing, sneezing and contact with open sore/blister/wound on the skin.
The disease, which usually has an incubation period of two to five days after exposure, can extend to 10 days in some cases. The signs and symptoms commonly associated with diphtheria are sore throats, tender lymph nodes in the neck, cough, difficulty swallowing, and rapid and difficulty breathing, leading to airway blockage.
Other symptoms are general weakness, fatigue, hoarseness, or voice changes when it affects the vocal cords. However, there is treatment for diphtheria, but early diagnosis is key. On disease prevention, the Ministry said vaccination, promoting herd immunity and practising good hygiene would help. It also advised keeping surroundings clean and people avoid crowded places.