Diphtheria: 130 hospitalised in Kano, states begin immunisation

The Kano State Government has established three treatment centres as the cases of diphtheria in the state surged beyond 130.

The state Commissioner for Health, Dr Abubakar Yusuf, who disclosed this on Thursday, said the state had deployed the necessary mechanisms to curtail the spread of the disease.

He disclosed that over 130 persons were admitted last Monday alone as the case continued to rise.

Giving an update on the outbreak of the diseases, Yusuf lamented that a state such as Kano should not be battling such an outbreak, but for the failure of the previous administration to immunise the people.

He said, “Governor Abba Yusuf has since directed the ministry to swing into action to curtail the spread of the deadly disease. Three designated centres have been provided for treatment and admission.

“The general public should not hesitate to seek medical assistance whenever they experience any of the symptoms listed by the Nigeria Centre for Disease and Control.”

Similarly, in Kwara State, the Executive Secretary of the state’s Healthcare Development Agency, Dr Nusirat Elelu, said, on Thursday, that the state had extended immunisation of children and infants to 388 health care facilities in the state to guard against diphtheria and other children diseases, including poliomyelitis.

Speaking with The PUNCH on the level of turnout in the state, she said, “We have extended our immunisation to 388 facilities covering the 194 wards in the 16 local government councils of Kwara State.

“We are not limiting the immunisation to diphtheria alone; we are also covering poliomyelitis and other diseases that can affect children in infancy.”

The Gombe State Epidemiologist, Dr Bile Nuhu, told The PUNCH that the state was taking proactive measures against diphtheria, though the state had not recorded a case since the outbreak of the disease in parts of the country.

Nuhu said, “Diphtheria is a vaccine-preventable disease. It’s captured in the routine vaccines for children younger than nine months. If children have that one, they are protected. Now the issue is that we have diphtheria, which affects children from two to 14 years old. The routine immunisation only covers those younger than one year. The efforts at the federal level between the NCDC and NPHCDA are to see how they can expand it so that it can cover the other ones.”

Meanwhile, checks by our correspondent in Abuja on Thursday indicated low turnout for the diphtheria vaccine in the Federal Capital Territory, three weeks after it announced the outbreak of diphtheria and vaccination for children.

The FCT Director, Public Health Department, Dr Sadiq Abdulrahman, had on July 3 announced the outbreak of the disease, noting that already a four-year-old was killed in Abuja.

The outbreaks earlier recorded in Lagos, Ondo, and Kano states in January had triggered a national response by the NDDC.

Checks by our correspondent at several hospitals in the FCT showed that only a small number of parents visited the hospitals to have their children vaccinated.

At the Garki District Hospital, our correspondent noted that only about five parents were present with their children under seven years old to receive the vaccine.

The doctor-in-charge of the immunisation unit, who gave his name only as Dr John, explained that the numbers were low because it wasn’t their immunisation day, which he said was usually on Fridays.

At the Wuse District Hospital in Wuse Zone 4, the officer-in-charge, Mrs Tsevende Jennifer, who spoke to our correspondent, said, “We have a drop in attendance now because of this fuel subsidy. But on average, we vaccinate between 15 and 25 children every day, Mondays to Fridays.”

Speaking with one of our correspondents, the Osun State Epidemiologist, Dr Omolola Adeagbo, said nursing mothers had been turning out in large numbers to get the vaccine for infants in the state.

Adeagbo attributed the improved turnout to an awareness campaign on diphtheria.

Meanwhile, the Group Leader, Bacteriology Unit, Centre for Emerging and Reemerging Infectious Disease, College of Health Sciences, Ladoke Akintola the University of Technology, Ogbomoso, Oyo State, Prof. Adekunle Olowe, has called on government at all levels to intensify sensitisation of the public on diphtheria to curb further spread of the disease.

In an interview with The PUNCH in Osogbo, Olowe said the increasing spread of the disease should be of concern to the government and called for an aggressive awareness campaign, especially in rural areas for people to be familiar with the symptoms of diphtheria

“Many residents who are illiterates don’t know about this disease yet. Government should focus more on awareness, especially in the rural areas. So far,  Osun has recorded two cases, one death while the other recovered. There are states with higher cases,” the don said.

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