FG develops national diphtheria laboratory as cases hit 8,406

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The Federal Government is nearing completion of the National Diphtheria Laboratory, which will undertake preliminary and confirmatory illness testing in the country.

This is despite the fact that the government recorded 13,204 suspected cases, of which 8,406 were confirmed cases from 114 Local Government Areas in 18 provinces and the Federal Capital Territory.

The Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, disclosed this on Tuesday at a press briefing on the update of the disease in Abuja.

A breakdown by states showed that Kano has 86 per cent of the disease burden with 7,188 cases; Yobe – 775; Katsina – 232; Borno – 118; Jigawa -23; Bauchi -20; Kaduna – 17; Lagos – 8; FCT – 6; Gombe – 5; Osun – 3; Sokoto – 3; Niger – 2; Cross River – 1; Enugu – 1; Imo – 1; Nasarawa – 1; Zamfara – 1; Kebbi -1.

Of the 8,406 confirmed cases, 6,202 (73.7 per cent) were aged 1-14 years.

“Our records have shown that most of the confirmed cases of diphtheria in the country were unvaccinated against diphtheria. Of the 8,406 confirmed cases, 5,371 (64 per cent) are either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, 966 (11 per cent) with unknown vaccination status while 2,069 (25 per cent) are fully vaccinated against diphtheria”, Adetifa stated.

Diphtheria, caused by a toxin produced by the bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheriae, is a vaccine-preventable disease covered by one of the vaccines provided routinely through Nigeria’s childhood immunisation schedule.

The NCDC boss noted that the Federal Ministry of Health through the NCDC and National Primary Health Care Development Agency, and partners has continued to work with the Ministry of Health of affected states to respond to diphtheria outbreaks across different states in the country.

“Last week the national diphtheria taskforce deployed National Rapid Response Teams to Kano, Yobe, Katsina, Bauchi, Borno, Kaduna, Jigawa and Zamfara to support the outbreak response in the State across all pillars. I also want to use this opportunity to thank our partners at the World Bank, the World Health Organisation, the United Nations Children’s Fund, Médecins Sans Frontières, GAVI, and Breakthrough Action Nigeria, amongst others for their continued support of the national response”, he added.

Adetifa said the recently deployed NRRT is offering on-site surveillance and response support to affected States in areas of active case search in communities and health facilities.

He, however, noted that security challenges are limiting the accessibility of some teams to some locations in affected LGAs across states.

“Through the laboratory network, we continue to conduct preliminary and confirmatory testing at sub-national and national levels respectively. Currently, we have 14 laboratories in the Diphtheria Laboratory Network with capacity to support diphtheria testing. Optimisation of five additional laboratories at the subnational is currently ongoing.

“We have conducted training for laboratory personnel at the sub-national level on laboratory diagnostic processes, quality assurance, biosafety and biosecurity procedures, and data management. With the support of our partners including UKHSA, WHO and MSF we have been able to conduct refresher training for the deployed National Rapid Response Team laboratory personnel.

“Currently, there is an ongoing installation of laboratory equipment (biosafety cabinets, autoclaves, and incubators) in Kaduna, Katsina and Bauchi states to aid the optimisation of labs in the states. There is also continuous provision of technical support to public health laboratory scientists across States. We are currently finalising the development of the National Diphtheria Laboratory,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib, said in recent months, the government launched rapid and comprehensive vaccination campaigns across the affected regions.

“Kano, as the epicentre of this outbreak, has been at the forefront of our vaccination efforts. Working with the State Governments, we implemented rounds one and two of the vaccination campaign in five high-burden LGAs in February and April 2023, respectively. Subsequently, round three was integrated with routine immunisation intensification, further bolstering our response. An additional eight LGAs in Kano underwent reactive vaccination exercises in the last week of August”, he noted.

He added, “Beyond Kano, we expanded our response to include Kaduna, Katsina, Bauchi, and Yobe in our Phase One response. These states engaged, trained, and executed vaccination campaigns in 25 high-burden LGAs within their borders with the commencement of reactive vaccination in August 2023. Borno State also conducted reactive vaccination exercises in four LGAs during the same period.

“It is crucial to note that routine vaccination continues daily at all government facilities across the nation. The reactive vaccination exercises just serve as an additional layer of effort, a testament to the commitment of the Federal Government and our partners to curb the spread of this infection.”

Speaking further, Faisal noted that for the phase one response conducted in August 2023, significant numbers were reached.

“In Kano State alone, 476,962 children received TD Vaccines, while 28,700 children received Penta vaccines. For other states, Katsina had 313,615 children vaccinated with Penta vaccines and 421,045 with Td vaccines; Bauchi, vaccinated 162,840 children with Penta and 257,075 with Td vaccines; Kaduna, reached 174,857 children with Penta and 245,805 with Td vaccines. Yobe, vaccinated 82,601 children with Penta and 207,418 with Td vaccines. These figures do not include the daily routine vaccination efforts ongoing in these states.

“As of September 23rd, 2023, we commenced the phase two round one diphtheria outbreak response in seven of the high-burden states. Yobe began on September 23rd, followed by Kano on September 30th. Bauchi, Borno, Jigawa, Kaduna, and Katsina are poised to commence on October 7th, 2023.

“Vaccination is not merely about administering shots and needles; it is about building trust and fostering community engagement. We acknowledge that our vaccination success hinges on the active participation and trust of our communities. Our dedicated teams have been on the ground, tirelessly engaging communities, answering questions and addressing concerns.”

He added that the government has undertaken a comprehensive approach that includes disseminating public health advisories through media engagement and webinars, developing and distributing diphtheria social and behaviour change materials, and coordinating stakeholders’ meetings for risk communication and community engagement.