The Nigeria Centre For Disease Control (NCDC) has alerted of an outbreak of diphtheria in Nigeria.

Diphtheria a serious infection of the nose and throat which is airborne and is preventable by vaccine.

In an alert published on its website this Friday morning titled “Diphtheria Public Health Advisory Amidst Outbreak in Nigeria”, the NCDC said it had responded to reports of diphtheria cases in Lagos and Kano States and was monitoring the situation in Osun and Yobe States where cases were now being picked up.

”In addition to clinically suspected cases, there have been laboratory-confirmed cases and the NCDC is working with State Ministries of Health and partners to enhance surveillance and response to the outbreak. This includes keeping the public informed on staying safe at home and in their communities,” the NCDC said.

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

The NCDC says people most at risk of contracting diphtheria include children and adults who have not received any or a single dose of the pentavalent vaccine (a diphtheria toxoid-containing vaccine).

Others at risk are people who live in crowded environments, people who live in areas with poor sanitation, as well as healthcare workers and others who are exposed to suspected/confirmed cases of diphtheria.

The NCDC further states that diphtheria spreads easily through direct contact with infected people as well as exposure to droplets from coughing or sneezing and contact with contaminated clothing and objects.

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The organization also states that the onset of signs and symptoms usually starts after 2 – 10 days of exposure to the bacteria and that symptoms of diphtheria include fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, red eyes (conjunctivitis) and neck swelling.

The NCDC says that In severe cases, a thick grey or white patch appears on the tonsils and/or at the back of the throat associated with difficulty breathing.

The Nigeria childhood immunisation schedule, it says, recommends three (3) doses of pentavalent vaccine (diphtheria toxoid-containing vaccine) for children in the 6th-, 10th- and 14th -week of life.

To reduce the risk of diphtheria, the NCDC offers the following advice; Parents should ensure that their children are fully vaccinated against diphtheria with three (3) doses of the pentavalent vaccine as recommended in the childhood immunisation schedule.

Healthcare workers should maintain a high index of suspicion for diphtheria i.e., be vigilant and look out for symptoms of diphtheria.

Individuals with signs and symptoms suggestive of diphtheria should isolate themselves and notify the local government area (LGA), state disease surveillance officer (DSNO) or the NCDC through our toll-free line (6232).

Close contacts with a confirmed case of diphtheria should be closely monitored given antibiotics prophylaxis and started on diphtheria antitoxin treatment when indicated.

All healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, laboratory scientists, support staff etc.) with higher exposure to cases of diphtheria should be vaccinated against diphtheria.