Diphtheria and NCDC challenge in Nigeria

Just last week, a strange illness caught the attention of medical experts in the country for which health authorities say it requires discipline to overcome it, just as it was during Covid-19. IDACHABA SUNNY ELEOJO reports. 

In the last few days, there have been reports about a strange disease in some parts of the country for which many could not immediately ascertain what it was, but it posed a greater concern as the country was yet to recover from the aftermath of Covid-19. 

To that extent, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) responded to the report by announcing a case of what it called diphtheria in Lagos and Kano states. It also went further to state that it was monitoring the situation in Osun and Yobe states where similar cases based on the symptoms were being picked up. 

It noted that in addition to clinically-suspected cases, there have been laboratory- confirmed cases for which it claimed the agency was working with state Ministries of Health and partners to enhance surveillance and response to the outbreak. 

Caution advocated

It said this includes an awareness campaign of keeping the public informed about staying safe at home and within the communities.

According to the NCDC, “Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection caused by the bacterium called Corynebacterium species that affects the nose, throat and sometimes, skin of an individual.”

In a statement, it noted further that people mostly at risk of contracting the disease include children and adults who have not received any or a single dose of the pentavalent vaccine (a diphtheria toxoid-containing vaccine and people who live in a crowded environment. 

It stated further that people who live in areas with poor sanitation could be affected while advising healthcare givers and others who are exposed to suspected/confirmed cases of diphtheria to be very careful of being infected.

The agency noted that the mode of transmission of the disease which equally spreads easily between people could be through direct contact with infected people, droplets from coughing or sneezing, contact with contaminated clothing and objects.

An expert’s view

A community health expert, Dr John Amodu cautioned that no one should take the warning by NCDC with levity in order to avoid a likely pitfall of what may look like Covid-19 and Ebola. 

“If you recall when Ebola and Covid-19 were reported, for many, there were mere western diseases that affect only those with the wherewithal to travel abroad, but when they began to spiral, it was already late to contain them. Each of them left the people with sad memories. Even Covid-19 is yet to abate judging from developing reports; so, let’s be guided.”

Therefore as the nation battles with Lassa fever, polio and a resurgence of Covid-19, health experts say to be warned is to be armed in order to avoid stories that touch the heart. 

In 2020, what looked like the Western disease (Covid-19) spiralled into the country in a manner that left everyone unaware. The pandemic which ravaged most parts of the world reportedly took nearly a million lives in Nigeria. It’s implication on the social and economic well being of Nigeria and Nigerians cannot be quantified.  

NCDC therefore is urging Nigerians to take responsibility while at the same time pushing to ensure safety for all.