Diphtheria: Yobe records 1,796 suspected cases, 117 deaths

On Monday, the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) confirmed that 117 children have died following a diphtheria outbreak in Yobe since 2022.

The agency, however, said 1,600 children had recovered from the disease within the period under review.

Faisal Shuaib, the agency’s executive director, stated this during an inspection visit to the diphtheria isolation centre in Potiskum, the disease’s epicentre in the state. 

He said 1,796 cases of the disease had been reported in Yobe since November 22, adding that the disease was more prevalent among children aged five to 14.

Mr Shuaib, who led the Diphtheria Emergency Task Team to the state, expressed satisfaction with the diphtheria vaccination conducted in Potiskum and 17 other local government areas.

“By October 12, more vulnerable kids will be provided with vaccines to curtail the disease. Vaccines are powerful, they are safe, and they work.

“Diphtheria is a disease of ancient times; with vaccination, deaths are preventable,” he said.

He noted that low vaccination rates were responsible for the recent disease outbreak nationwide.

“In 2016 and 2017, the MICS NICS survey, an independent survey of the National Bureau of Statistics, indicated that only 33 per cent of Nigerians were covered by vaccinations.

“Due to concerted efforts by the federal government and development partners, the figure rose to 70 per cent in 2019.

“But with the outbreak of COVID-19, which prevented many people from taking their children for vaccination due to lockdown and fear of contracting COVID-19, there was a deep drop in coverage, down to 57 per cent,” he said.

Mr Shuaib said that improving environmental and personal hygiene would eliminate the disease, despite Yobe being second only to Kano State in cases of diphtheria across the country.

The NPHCDA boss commended the Yobe government and development partners for their roles in tackling diphtheria and pledged continued support to enable the state to improve healthcare service delivery.

He stressed the need for an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to effectively monitor, refer, and manage diphtheria cases. 

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