The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has placed Nigerians on alert following response to reports of diphtheria cases in Lagos and Kano States.
This was contained in a public health advisory by the NCDC Director-General, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, issued on Friday.
The Director-General said that the centre is also monitoring the situation in Osun and Yobe States.
Adetifa also urged healthcare workers to maintain a high index of suspicion for diphtheria by being vigilant and looking out for symptoms of the infection.
The centre further urged Nigerians to ensure that their wards are fully vaccinated against diphtheria with three doses of the pentavalent vaccine as recommended in the country’s childhood immunisation schedule.
Adetifa said Kano State has 78 suspected cases of the highly contagious bacterial infection in 14 local government areas of the state.
The state government said that 27 samples had been taken to the laboratory, out of which eight were confirmed positive and three deaths were registered in the state.
Adetifa said that diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection caused by the bacterium called Corynebacterium species that affects the nose, throat and sometimes skin of an individual.
According to the NCDC, the symptoms of diphtheria include fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, red eyes (conjunctivitis) and neck swelling.
“In severe cases, a thick grey or white patch appears on the tonsils and/or at the back of the throat associated with difficulty breathing,” he said.
ADetifa said that the agency is also monitoring the situation in Osun and Yobe States, where cases were now being picked up.
“Data from the Kano State Ministry of Health revealed that the diphtheria outbreak has so far killed 25 people with 58 suspected cases and six persons on admission,” he said.
The NCDC boss said in addition to clinically suspected cases, there have been laboratory-confirmed cases, and the NCDC was working with state ministries of health and partners to enhance surveillance and response to the outbreak.
He said people most at risk of contracting diphtheria are children and adults who have not received any or a single dose of the pentavalent vaccine (a diphtheria toxoid-containing vaccine).
Others, he said, are people who live in crowded environment, people who live in areas with poor sanitation and healthcare workers and others who are exposed to suspected/confirmed cases of diphtheria.
The NCDC Director-General said that diphtheria spreads easily between people through direct contact with infected people, droplets from coughing or sneezing, and contact with contaminated clothing and objects.
“Individuals with signs and symptoms suggestive of diphtheria were also advised to isolate themselves and notify the local government area, state disease surveillance officer (DSNO) or the NCDC,” he said.