West African Countries Battle Massive Diphtheria Outbreaks as Vaccination Efforts Intensify

West African Countries Battle Massive Diphtheria Outbreaks As Vaccination Efforts Intensify

Authorities in multiple West African countries are grappling with significant diphtheria outbreaks, with Nigeria at the forefront of vaccination campaigns to address widespread gaps in immunity. As the largest outbreak in recent history, Nigeria has reported 573 deaths among the 11,640 diagnosed cases since December 2022, although officials believe the actual toll may be higher in states struggling to detect numerous instances. In Niger, there have been 37 fatalities out of 865 cases as of October, while Guinea has recorded 58 deaths out of 497 since June.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control’s Head, Ifedayo Adetifa, stated, “As far as the history that I am aware of, this is the largest outbreak that we have had.” The highly contagious bacterial infection has spread to 20 out of Nigeria’s 36 states.

A primary factor contributing to the region’s high infection rate is the significant gap in vaccination coverage, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF). Government surveys reveal that only 42% of children under 15 in Nigeria and 47% in Guinea are fully protected against diphtheria, far below the World Health Organization’s recommended rate of 80-85% for community protection.

Compounding the situation is the global shortage of the diphtheria vaccine, as demand has surged in response to the outbreaks, MSF noted. Dr. Dagemlidet Tesfaye Worku, emergency medical program manager for MSF in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, emphasized the urgent need for a substantial increase in vaccination efforts.

To address the crisis, the Nigerian government is intensifying vaccination for targeted populations and supporting states in enhancing their capacity for case detection and management, according to Adetifa. However, several states, including Kano, which accounts for over 75% of cases in Nigeria, continue to face challenges due to limited diphtheria treatment centres and the need for people to travel significant distances to access treatment.

The battle against diphtheria outbreaks in West Africa necessitates swift and comprehensive action to expand vaccination coverage and improve healthcare infrastructure. With the collective efforts of governments, healthcare organizations, and international support, the region aims to curb the spread of the disease and safeguard the health of its population.


Source: Africa News

Combatting Diphtheria in Nigeria: A Call for Vaccination and Vigilance

In December 2022, Nigeria found itself grappling with a harrowing diphtheria outbreak, a contagious disease primarily affecting the nose, throat, and skin, which had already claimed the lives of more than 600 individuals, primarily children. This grim statistic surpasses the 2011 outbreak, which saw a mere 98 reported cases, casting a shadow of concern across the nation.

Kano state, situated in the northern region, became the epicentre of this health crisis, bearing the brunt of the outbreak with over 500 recorded fatalities. However, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon, as the number of active cases has recently started to decline.

Diphtheria, a highly contagious and preventable disease, spreads through coughs, sneezes, and close contact with infected individuals, with severe cases often proving fatal. Regrettably, many of the affected children were unvaccinated, making the situation all the more heart-wrenching.

Dr. Faisal Shuaib, the head of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, witnessed the dire consequences of this entirely preventable disease during a visit to a diphtheria isolation centre in Kano city. He emphasized the need for vaccinations, stating, “Witnessing the young children suffering from this entirely preventable disease at the centre today was profoundly heart-wrenching.”

As of 24 September, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) reported 453 fatalities and 11,587 suspected cases. Nevertheless, the World Health Organization (WHO) has raised concerns that the actual fatality and infection rates might be higher due to inadequate testing and some patients not reporting their symptoms. Despite this, measures such as contact tracing have contributed to a decline in case numbers.

This devastating outbreak has cast its dark shadow over 19 of Nigeria’s 36 states and the federal capital, Abuja. The hardest-hit states are all located in the north, including Kano, Yobe, Katsina, Borno, Jigawa, and Kaduna.

Health authorities are now urgently appealing to parents with unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children to ensure they receive immunization. They emphasize that vaccination remains the most effective means of controlling the ongoing crisis.

The World Health Organization (WHO) underscores that only 57% of Nigerians have received the pentavalent vaccine, which guards against five life-threatening diseases, including diphtheria. To avert future diphtheria outbreaks, Nigeria must increase vaccination coverage to reach at least 80% of the population, according to the WHO.

The last significant diphtheria outbreak in the country occurred in 2011 when 21 people lost their lives, and 98 were infected in Borno state, as reported by the WHO. In the wake of this latest outbreak, it is evident that vaccination is not just a crucial preventative measure but a lifeline to safeguard the health and future of Nigeria’s children.


Source: Africa News