In a growing concern for public health in Nigeria, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has recently confirmed the unfortunate death of an individual due to diphtheria in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). This troubling development occurred after the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) raised a red flag over the sudden emergence of the disease in some parts of Abuja, where a death has already been recorded.
Diphtheria, a notorious acute bacterial disease, is highly contagious and known to cause severe breathing difficulties, heart rhythm irregularities, and in worst-case scenarios, death. As a bacterial disease, it spreads rapidly, posing a significant threat to densely populated regions.
The Public Health Department’s Director in the FCT, Dr. Sadiq Abdulrahman, revealed that the initial samples taken from potential diphtheria cases in a village near Dei-Dei confirmed the outbreak. Four individuals from the same family were identified in the region, and some of these tested positive for the disease. Tragically, one of the family members, a four-year-old child, succumbed to the disease.
Dr. Abdulrahman strongly urges the residents to maintain personal hygiene and not to overlook any strange symptoms, particularly those related to respiratory health. He mentioned, “Two weeks ago, we received information about eight suspected cases from a community within the FCT. This prompted our team to collect samples, which were then sent to the National Reference Laboratory Gaduwa and the NCDC. By Friday afternoon, the results were available. One out of the eight suspected cases tested positive.”
Earlier this year, an outbreak of the disease was identified in three states across Nigeria, prompting a national response. Dr. Abdulrahman stated, “In January this year, a national alert was sent out regarding the outbreak of diphtheria in Lagos, Kano, and Ondo. This triggered a national response, and the NCDC, Nigeria’s disease outbreak and response flagship, issued a letter to all the states of the FCT.”
In the midst of this alarming situation, the Executive Secretary of FCT Primary Health Care, Dr. Yahaya Vatsa, emphasized that those most at risk are the unvaccinated, especially those living in overcrowded areas and/or areas with inadequate sanitation. Dr. Vatsa elaborated, “Diphtheria spreads easily between people through direct contact with infected individuals, droplets from coughing or sneezing, and contact with contaminated clothing and objects. This highlights the importance of hygiene and environmental sanitation in preventing its spread.”
Residents are urged to ensure their children have received the three recommended doses of the pentavalent vaccine as indicated in the National childhood immunization schedule, in an effort to reduce the risk of contracting the disease. Dr. Vatsa also revealed, “The FCTA, through the Primary Health Care Board, has finalized plans to revaccinate all children aged 14 and below in the affected community with the appropriate vaccines, regardless of their previous vaccination status. Children aged 6 weeks to 4 years will receive the Penta Vaccine, while those aged 4 years to 14 years will receive the Td vaccine.”
Public health officials in Nigeria are committed to monitoring this ongoing situation closely and taking proactive measures to control and eradicate the disease. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control will continue to provide updates as developments unfold.