Diphtheria Outbreak Worsening in Northern Nigeria, Says Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

Diphtheria Outbreak Worsening in Northern Nigeria, Says Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

The Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has issued a warning about the worsening diphtheria outbreak in Nigeria, particularly in the northern states of Bauchi, Borno, and Kano. MSF reported that thousands of people have been infected, and hundreds have died from the highly contagious and potentially life-threatening bacterial disease.

MSF teams have been providing treatment to suspected and confirmed cases of diphtheria in Kano, Borno, and Bauchi. In Kano alone, they are currently treating over 700 people with suspected diphtheria and admitting more than 280 patients on a weekly basis at their treatment centers. Women and children under the age of five are the most vulnerable groups affected by the outbreak.

Funding for vaccines and implementation costs remains a barrier to scaling up the response efforts. Kano State requires millions of vaccine doses to target at-risk groups, but due to low national vaccination coverage and a worldwide shortage of the antitoxin used in treatment, controlling the outbreak has become challenging.

To address the shortage, MSF provided 2,000 doses of diphtheria antitoxin in Kano last month and established a 20-bed diphtheria treatment clinic in their pediatric hospital. However, more support is needed from the international community to improve treatment, preventive measures, contact tracing, and strengthen the local health system.

The outbreak is largely attributed to a low vaccination rate, with only 70% of children receiving their first dose of the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine. This decline in immunization has led to a reported 25 million un- or under-vaccinated children in Nigeria in 2021.

In conclusion, urgent measures are required to reduce the transmission of diphtheria in Nigeria. This includes increasing vaccination coverage, providing sufficient antitoxin, improving surveillance and contact tracing efforts, and strengthening the local health system to effectively respond to outbreaks.

– Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)
– Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)

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