On Friday the 20th of January, the Director General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr ifedayo Adetifa announced that a Diphtheria outbreak had been confirmed in the country.

Diphtheria is a highly contagious bacterial infection that affects the nose, throat and skin. It is very easily spread through direct contact with infected people and through droplets that are released from sick individuals coughing and sneezing. It can also be spread by contact with contaminated objects. The disease commonly affects children and unvaccinated adults.

Diphtheria is caused by the Corynebacterium diphtheriae bacilli

The symptoms of diphtheria include fever, cough, sore throat, catarrh, conjunctivitis and a neck swelling. The symptoms usually start after about two to ten hours after infection with the bacteria.

Diphtheria is a vaccine-preventable disease, and a Diphtheria vaccine is included on the Expanded Programme for Immunization in Nigeria. In 2020, however, UNICEF warned that the number of children vaccinated against the disease in Nigeria was dropping. This was due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to this outbreak, Diphtheria had all but disappeared from Nigeria, with many health workers having never had to deal with the disease before.

The Diphtheria patch is one of the hallmarks of the disease

According to Dr Abdullahi Kauran-Mata, the Chief Epidemiologist for Kano State, the outbreak was first noticed among children in a hospital in the state in late December. The exact number of cases in the hospital could not be confirmed, however Kano state had recorded over 70 cases and 25 deaths by the 20th of January. By the 24th of January, Nigeria had recorded 123 cases of the disease and 38 deaths. 100 cases and 32 deaths were recorded in Kano State, with five cases and three deaths in Lagos State. Yobe state has 17 confirmed cases with three deaths while Osun state has confirmed one case with no deaths.

Oyo state and the University College Hospital have recorded no cases of the disease. However, Brownites are adviced to exercise caution and take precautions in the hospital and the Hall. Facemasks, hand hygiene and proper cleaning of surfaces help to prevent the spread of the disease and should be incorporated by Brownites as much as possible. Symptoms of the disease should also be swiftly reported when noticed, as Diphtheria is a highly treatable disease when spotted early. As a population susceptible to disease outbreaks, it is imperative that public health is taken seriously by the occupants of the Hall within and outside the Hall.

The use of face masks will help to reduce the spread of disease

As healthcare professionals in training, Brownites also have a responsibility to ensure the dissemination of sound information on disease prevention, management and vaccination. It is imperative that all information received is properly vetted before redistribution.

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