The Director General of the Nigerian Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, has confirmed that the diphtheria outbreak has killed at least 35 people in the country.

Dr. Adetifa said this during a show on Arise Television on Friday night.

In an advisory issued on Friday, the NCDC said it had responded to reports of diphtheria cases in Lagos and Kano states and was monitoring the situation in Osun and Yobe states, where cases are now being detected.

Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection caused by bacteria called Corynebacterium species that affects a person’s nose, throat, and sometimes the skin.

Diphtheria spreads easily from person to person through direct contact with infected people, droplets from coughing or sneezing, and contact with contaminated clothing and objects.

The appearance of signs and symptoms generally begins after two to 10 days of exposure to the bacteria. Symptoms include fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, red eyes (conjunctivitis), and neck swelling.

Adetifa said: “Diphtheria cases have now been reported in Lagos, Kano, Yobe and Osun states. Kano currently has the highest number of cases and is now closely followed by Yobe State.

“At the time of the report, Kano had recorded about 25 deaths, but actually, as of the end of this week, I think there have been about 34 total deaths now.

“While this is a highly preventable and highly treatable condition, without proper treatment including antibiotics and diphtheria antitoxin for severe cases, mortality can be high. Otherwise, with early detection and prompt institution of appropriate treatment, the results are often very good.”

The NCDC director general said the disease was a relatively easy condition to treat.

“It responds very well to the relatively cheap and commonly available antibiotics. The problem is for the severe cases that require diphtheria antitoxin,” she said.

He also noted that the agency had shared diphtheria antitoxins with the first two states where cases were reported.

He added that plans were underway to roll out the antitoxins to other states where cases are found.

PUNCH reports that during the week, NCDC trained some experts and lab coordinators across the country.

The training was part of the activities to strengthen the diphtheria diagnostic capacity in the country.

“The important thing is that patients are recognized and treated on time.

“We are in a good place to help states respond, but it is key that patients are recognized early, diagnosed quickly, and receive appropriate treatment.

“Diphtheria has been so rare that we now have perhaps several generations of health care workers who have never seen a case before.

“Those most at risk are children and adults who have never been vaccinated, people who live in a crowded environment, and people who live in areas with unsanitary conditions. Again, there is a bit of low socioeconomic position associated with this and we have to be vigilant now,” she added.