It appears Nigerians may soon return to the wearing of nose masks as well as other public health preventive measures, as a new infection known as Diphtheria seems to have broken out in Nigeria.
This is coming as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, NCDC, in a public health advisory, on Friday, confirmed the outbreak of the new infection of the nose and throat.
The disease control centre confirmed that it has responded to reports of diphtheria cases in Lagos and Kano States and is monitoring the situations in Osun and Yobe States, where fresh cases are now being recorded.
While the public health agency is yet to give data on the number of infections and deaths recorded in the country, so far, the Kano State Commissioner for Health, Aminu Tsanyawa, had on Thursday confirmed that the outbreak of Diphtheria has killed about 25 persons in the state.
The commissioner told journalists that the state rapid response team has been reactivated and indexed an action plan to check the spread of the deadly disease in the state, as the NCDC listed the symptoms of the new infection to include fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, red eyes (conjunctivitis) and swollen neck.
It noted that 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.
The health agency also noted that it’s now working with state health ministries and partners to enhance surveillance and response to the outbreak.
It explained that diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection caused by the bacterium called Corynebacterium species that affects the nose, throat and sometimes, the skin of an individual.
It added that 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), people, who live in a crowded environment, in areas with poor sanitation and healthcare workers, who are exposed to suspected or confirmed cases of diphtheria.
It explained that the disease spreads easily between people through direct contact with infected people, droplets from coughing or sneezing and contact with contaminated clothing and objects.
To prevent the disease, the NCDC admonished parents to ensure their children are fully vaccinated against diphtheria with three doses of the pentavalent vaccine, as recommended in the childhood immunisation schedule.
It advised healthcare workers to be vigilant and look out for symptoms of diphtheria, and individuals with signs and symptoms suggestive of diphtheria should isolate themselves and notify the local government area, state disease surveillance officer or the NCDC through its toll-free line – 6232.
It noted that “close contacts with a confirmed case of diphtheria should be closely monitored, given antibiotics prophylaxis and started on diphtheria antitoxin treatment when indicated, while all healthcare workers with higher exposure to cases should be vaccinated against diphtheria.”