Mechanism in place to prevent diphtheria outbreak – Edo agency  

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Benin, Edo.

Edo Primary Health Care Development Agency (EDSPHCDA) says  the state government has put measures in place to prevent the spread of diphtheria in the state.

Dr Eseigbe Efeomon, Deputy Director, Disease Control and Immunisation, EDSPHCDA, disclosed this during an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Benin.

The deputy director explained that diphtheria is caused by a strain of bacteria and symptoms included nasal discharge, fever and chills, sore throat and hoarseness, swollen glands (enlarged lymph nodes) in the neck and difficulty breathing or rapid breathing.

“We should not be hearing of diphtheria now; hearing about it now means that we have to strengthen our routine immunisation in the country.

“The disease is not yet in Edo, most of the cases are domicile in Kano State and few other northern and southern states,” Efeomon said. 

He noted that the state government is doing its best to prevent the spread of diphtheria in the state through improved routine immunisation, health education and enhanced disease surveillance.

‘The Governor of Edo, Mr Godwin Obaseki, has invested a lot in primary health care and the agency is seeing to it that our immunisation coverage is almost 100 per cent.

“We are not looking at the situation where people will come down with the disease in the state, we are looking at preventing it from showing up in the state. 

”Apart from routine immunisation, we also educate our people to ensure good hygiene practices because the disease is spread by droplets, when people cough and have catarrh.

“We also engage in supplementary immunisation activities to fill the gaps that may exist in routine immunisation. 

“We ensure that our PHCs conduct outreaches in communities around them to ensure that no child is left behind.

“With support from development partners, we go to hard to reach areas where our routine team may not be able to access.

“We are getting support and we need more support to ensure that children in hard to reach communities continually take part in routine immunisation so that vaccine preventable disease will not be a problem in the state.

“It is most common in young children, but can also be present in adults.

“It is a vaccine preventable disease. The vaccine for diphtheria is contained in a compound vaccine that contains five different vaccines: it is called the pentavalent vaccine.

“The pentavalent vaccine is given at six weeks, 10 weeks and 14 weeks after birth, but when we have parents not bringing their children to health facilities for the vaccination, they make immunity to this disease to be low. 

“And when the disease enters any community, it will begin to spread because the general immunity may not be high to protect children who are mostly susceptible to the disease,” he said.

He added that doctors and nurses in health facilities in the state had been sensitised to have a high index of suspicion on suspected cases.

“Those that have not taken the vaccine as well as those that have not completed the dosage of the vaccine are not protected from the disease.

“A disease that is spread by respiratory droplets would have gone across the country.

“A lot of people transit and migrate from one place to the other, so we need to ensure that our routine immunization is very high and be on the look out,” he said.

NAN reports that diphtheria infection in Nigeria has continued to increase as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control reports that as of Oct. 3, the country has recorded 13,204 suspected cases in 19 states including the FCT..

The deadly disease which began in December 2022 into the early this year has been spreading over the past months with Kano State accounting for 86 per cent of the total 8,406 confirmed cases.

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