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Diphtheria kills 20 in Kaduna State

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By Abraham Adekunle

Senate urges health ministry to immunize citizens against the deadly disease.

Nigeria’s Senate has urged the Federal Ministry of Health to begin immunization of vulnerable Nigerians against diphtheria disease, which recently broke out in Kaduna State. So far, the disease has killed about 20 people. The Senate resolution was sequel to a motion at plenary on Wednesday, which was sponsored by Senator Sunday Katung (representing PDP Kaduna South). The motion notified the red chamber of the death of 20 people in Kafanchan and Makarfi local government areas of Kaduna State.

The disease is a serious infection caused by strains of bacteria called corynebacterium diphtheriae that make toxins. It can lead to difficulty breathing, heart rhythm problems, and even death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bacteria spread from person to person, usually through respiratory droplets, like from coughing or sneezing. People can also contract it by touching infected open sores or ulcers. The disease poses increased risk to people in the same household, people with a history of frequent or close contact with an infected person, and people directly exposed to secretions from an infected part of the body.

Symptoms of the deadly disease take days to show.

Katung said the index case of a four-year-old child whose illness started on July 4, 2023 in Jema’a Local Government Area (LGA) has led to the death of about 20 people. Symptoms of this sickness depend on the affected body part and it can take about two to five days for them to start showing symptoms. The bacteria most commonly infects the respiratory system, causing difficulty in breathing. When the bacteria attaches to the lining of the respiratory system, it causes weakness, sore throat, mild fever and even swollen neck.

Just like all other unhealthy organisms, the bacteria attacks healthy tissues in the system. The dead tissue becomes a thick, gray coating, which can build up in the throat or nose. If this toxin gets into the bloodstream, it can cause heart, nerve and kidney damage. There are speculations that this infection could become another pandemic just like coronavirus and Ebola virus. It has all its characteristics and it is also airborne. However, diphtheria goes further to infect the skin in some cases, causing open sores or ulcers.

Government should consider a holistic approach.

Furthermore, the lawmaker notes that since the first case, the Kaduna State Government has confirmed that the death toll from the outbreak has risen to 17 with 68 suspected cases identified across the state as of July 23, 2023. He also notes that a breakdown shows that ten people have reportedly died from the disease in Kafanchan, Jema’a LGA of Kaduna State, while three died in Makarfi LGA and seven others were hospitalized. In his words, people should be cognisant that diphtheria is highly contagious, rendering infected people struck with serious breathing and swallowing problems that may develop sores on the skin.

He also expressed concern that the disease’s contagious nature means that it would spread to other rural communities at a devastating rate without immediate intervention and concerted efforts towards curbing it. He stated that Nigeria’s recent experiences with Ebola virus and the Covid-19 pandemic showed why outbreaks of virus epidemics must be fought with the best biomedical and scientific tools and knowledge available. As well, Senator Khalid, who seconded the motion, said that the government should look at a holistic approach instead of focusing on the five affected local government areas (LGA).

NCDC and PHCDA to liaise for vaccination outreach.

In its final resolutions, the Senate mandated the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Primary Health Care Development Agency (PHCDA) to partner with the hierarchy of the Kaduna State Ministry of Health and other states for massive vaccines against the disease. The legislative chamber called for search on active cases of diphtheria with contact tracing, risk communication activities and movement of affected cases to health facilities for management. The Federal Ministry of Health was also mandated to liaise with the state to deploy health workers to affected areas and to intensify surveillance activities across the 23 LGA of the Kaduna and neighboring states.

Related Link

Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention: Website

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