Nigeria is battling a severe outbreak of diphtheria – a highly contagious bacterial infection. The disease has been spreading rampantly throughout the country, posing a significant threat to public health and necessitating immediate action. Diphtheria is an infectious disease caused by the Corynebacterium diphtheriae bacterium which produces toxin that primarily affects the respiratory system and causes severe sickness. It is transmitted through respiratory droplets, largely impacting unimmunised or inadequately vaccinated individuals. Most vulnerable are children and adults with weakened immune systems.
Upon infection, diphtheria targets the throat and nose, leading to a thick greyish membrane formation that can obstruct breathing and cause asphyxia. The toxin released by the bacterium also damages vital organs, such as the heart and nerves. Without prompt medical intervention, victims can suffer from respiratory distress, heart failure, paralysis, and potentially death.
Diphtheria has spread across several states in Nigeria, exacerbating the public health crisis. Regions notably affected include Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Rivers, and Oyo. Though the exact number of infections and deaths may vary due to ongoing transmission, the toll so far has been alarming, with approximately 2,500 infections reported, and a significant number of deaths exceeding 100 as of last week.
The most crucial step in combating diphtheria is ensuring widespread immunisation coverage. Vaccines such as the DTP vaccine (combining diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) are highly effective in preventing the disease and should be made readily available. Establishing robust surveillance systems can help track and respond promptly to outbreaks, ensuring early diagnosis, isolation, and comprehensive treatment for infected individuals. Equipping hospitals and health centres with necessary resources, skilled medical professionals, and appropriate isolation and treatment facilities are vital to combat the outbreak and minimise fatalities.
Educating communities and individuals about the importance of vaccination, personal hygiene, and timely medical attention will foster preventive practices, reducing the disease’s transmission. Also, collaborations between government agencies, healthcare organisations, and international partners can pool resources, expertise, and funding to effectively combat the outbreak and prevent further spread.
By ensuring that individuals are routinely vaccinated, we can build herd immunity, protecting vulnerable populations and restricting transmission of the disease. It is essential for government to prioritise vaccination campaigns, improve vaccine accessibility, and educate citizens on the significance of immunisation.
Government bears the primary responsibility for mitigating and controlling the diphtheria outbreak. It should allocate sufficient funds to healthcare, strengthen surveillance systems, mobilise resources for mass vaccination campaigns, and establish public awareness programmes. Additionally, individuals should actively participate by seeking vaccination, maintaining personal hygiene, and reporting suspected cases promptly to health authorities.
The diphtheria outbreak in Nigeria demands urgent attention and concerted efforts from both the government and individuals. Immediate action is paramount to control this outbreak and prevent future occurrences, ensuring a healthier and more resilient society.