Thursday, September 21, 2023
Thursday, September 21, 2023

Diphtheria: Nigeria govt sets up emergency taskforce as outbreak spreads to 14 states

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Diphtheria: Nigeria govt sets up emergency taskforce as outbreak spreads to 14 states

The Nigerian government has set up an emergency task force to mitigate the spread of diphtheria in the country.

The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Muhammad Pate, made this known in a statement issued by the ministry on Thursday.

Mr Pate said the primary objective of the task force is to operate in an emergency mode to prevent further spread of diphtheria to other states and provide relief to affected communities.

He said the team will also liaise with the governors of the states affected by diphtheria for counterpart funding, ownership, and mass mobilisation.


The task force is to be co-chaired by the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, and the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Ifedayo Adetifa.

Other members of the task force include the Director of Public Health in the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Anyaike Chukwuma; representatives from the World Health Organisation, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Federal Ministry of Information and the Northern Traditional Leaders Committee on Primary Healthcare Delivery (NTLC).

About Diphtheria

Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection caused by the bacterium corynebacterium species that affects the nose, throat, and sometimes, the skin of an individual.

According to NCDC, 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.

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NCDC also said the disease spreads easily among people through direct contact with infected people, droplets from coughing or sneezing, and contact with contaminated clothing and objects.

The symptoms of diphtheria include fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, red eyes (conjunctivitis), and neck swelling. In severe cases, NCDC said that a thick grey or white patch appears on the tonsils and, or at the back of the throat associated with difficulty in breathing.

As of Thursday, diphtheria cases have been detected in 14 states, with Kano as the epicentre of the infection.

READ ALSO: Diphtheria: Despite govt’s efforts, many Nigerian children unvaccinated- NPHCDA

The 14 affected states are Lagos, Osun, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, Borno, Zamfara, Jigawa, Plateau, Kano and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Diphtheria vaccine

The statement also noted that UNICEF procured 1.2 million vials of tetanus-diphtheria vaccine as support to the Nigerian government’s response to the outbreak.

UNICEF Representative, Rownak Khan, affirms UNICEF’s unwavering commitment to supporting the government’s comprehensive response to the diphtheria outbreak.

Ms Khan said the vaccines will be dispatched to Kano State, the epicentre of the infection in Nigeria.

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He said: “I’m pleased to announce that UNICEF, on behalf of the government, has procured 1.2 million vials of the tetanus-diphtheria vaccine which have arrived in Nigeria.

“These will be immediately dispatched to Kano, which is at the heart of this outbreak. Our collective aim is to safeguard the health and future of every child in Nigeria.”

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