Everything You Need to Know About The Diphtheria Outbreak in Nigeria

Nigeria is currently facing a diphtheria outbreak. In January of 2023 alone, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) confirmed over 120 cases of Diphtheria disease with over 30 deaths in four states in the country.

Diphtheria is a highly contagious and potentially fatal disease that is caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae. It is spread through respiratory droplets and can cause a wide range of symptoms, including sore throat, fever, and difficulty breathing. The disease is particularly dangerous in young children and older adults, as well as people with weakened immune systems.

The disease was first reported in the Nigeria in the year 1989 with 5,039 cases. Then another outbreak in the year 2000 with 3,995 cases. In 2001, over 2,400 cases were reported. The total of confirmed cases has been on the decline until its resurgence in recent times. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) reported several confirmed cases of the outbreak as of 2021.

One of the main reasons for the outbreak is the low vaccination coverage in Nigeria. This means that many children are not protected against the disease, which makes it easier for the disease to spread.

A major factor contributing to the outbreak is poor sanitation and hygiene. Diphtheria is more likely to spread in areas where people live in close proximity and have limited access to clean water and sanitation. This is a common problem in many parts of the country, where overcrowding and poor living conditions make it easy for the disease to spread.

The most common symptoms of diphtheria include:
  • Sore throat
  • Mild fever
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Hoarseness or loss of voice
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Nasal congestion or discharge
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
In severe cases, diphtheria can also cause:
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Heart failure
  • Paralysis
  • Death

It is important to seek medical attention immediately if you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms. Diphtheria can be treated with antibiotics, but early treatment is crucial to prevent serious complications.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that at least 95% of children should be vaccinated against diphtheria to achieve herd immunity, but Nigeria's vaccination coverage is well below this threshold.

The NCDC, in collaboration with WHO, UNICEF and other partners have taken steps to control the outbreak. They have launched a massive vaccination campaign, targeted at children under 15 years of age, with a focus on high-risk areas. They are also providing antibiotics and other medical treatment to people who have been infected with the disease.

In addition to this, the NCDC is also working to improve sanitation and hygiene in affected areas, and to raise awareness about the disease and how to prevent it. This includes educating people on the importance of vaccination and handwashing, and providing information on how to recognize the symptoms of diphtheria.

It is important to note that the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from diphtheria is to get vaccinated. Parents should ensure that their children are up to date with their vaccinations, and adults should also consider getting a booster shot if they have not been vaccinated in recent years.

In conclusion, the diphtheria outbreak in Nigeria is a serious concern. However, with the efforts of the NCDC and other partners, the outbreak can be controlled. It is important for everyone to take steps to protect themselves and their loved ones from the disease by getting vaccinated, practicing good hygiene and following the guidelines provided by the health authorities. Additionally, if you or someone you know is experiencing any of the symptoms of diphtheria, seek medical attention immediately.


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