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Diphtheria: Disease kills 453, infects 7,202, spreads to 18 states



Diphtheria outbreak kills 58 in Guinea

The federal government has stated that Nigeria has recorded 7,202 confirmed cases and 453 deaths from diphtheria since the confirmation of the current outbreak in December 2022.

In a joint statement from the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, in conjunction with the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on Monday, it stated that as of September 24, 2023, “there have been 11,587 reported suspected cases out of which 7,202 were confirmed cases from 105 local government areas (LGAs) in 18 states, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).”

The federal government further disclosed that most (6,185) of the confirmed diphtheria cases were recorded in Kano.

It also reveals that states with diphtheria cases are Yobe (640), Katsina (213), Borno (95), Kaduna (16), Jigawa (14), Bauchi (8), Lagos (8), FCT (5), Gombe (5), Osun (3), Sokoto (3), Niger (2), Cross River (1), Enugu (1), Imo (1), Nasarawa (1), and Zamfara (1).

It said 73.6% of the confirmed cases occurred among children aged 1–14 years, with those aged 5–14 years bearing most of the brunt of the disease.


“So far, a total of 453 deaths have occurred in confirmed cases, giving a case fatality rate (CFR) of 6.3%,” it said.

The statement stated that the Coordinating Minister of the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Professor Muhammad Ali Pate, has set up a national emergency task team co-chaired by the Executive Director of the NPHCDA and the Director General of the NCDC for higher-level coordination of outbreak response efforts following findings that 80% of confirmed cases in the ongoing outbreak are unvaccinated.

Other members of the task force include the Director of Public Health (FMOH), representatives from the Federal Ministry of Information, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), USCDC, USAID, GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, other non-governmental organizations, and development partners.

“Since the confirmation of an outbreak, the FMOH&SW, through her agencies, has been coordinating surveillance and response activities across the country. These include response coordination, surveillance, laboratory investigation, vaccination, case management, and risk communication activities,” the statement said.


Diphtheria is a vaccine-preventable disease caused by a toxin produced by the bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheriae. It is covered by one of the vaccines usually offered through Nigeria’s childhood immunization programme.

The federal government recommended that parents ensure that their children have received the three doses of diphtheria antitoxin-containing pentavalent vaccination provided as part of Nigeria’s childhood immunisation programme.

It also encouraged healthcare staff to keep a high index of suspicion for diphtheria and to use routine infection prevention and control practices when caring for all patients.

“The most effective protection against diphtheria is vaccination with the pentavalent or TD vaccine. The Federal Government of Nigeria provides free, safe, and effective vaccines at all primary healthcare centres nationwide. We invite the public to take advantage of the ongoing vaccination occurring in all states,” it stated.

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