The countries of West Africa are taking action to address widespread outbreaks of diphtheria by focusing on those who have not received vaccinations.
Government officials in multiple West African nations are working to control large-scale diphtheria outbreaks. In Nigeria, a high-ranking health official stated on Thursday that millions of people are receiving vaccinations to address significant vulnerabilities to the disease.
Since December 2022, the current outbreak in Nigeria has resulted in the death of at least 573 individuals out of the 11,640 who have been diagnosed with the disease. However, officials believe that the actual number of deaths may be much higher due to the inability to detect many cases in certain states. The death toll is currently decreasing due to treatment efforts.
In Niger, there have been a total of 865 cases and 37 deaths as of October. Similarly, Guinea has reported 497 cases and 58 deaths since its outbreak began in June.
According to Ifedayo Adetifa, the director of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, this is the biggest outbreak in the history that I know of.
As of now, there have been reports of the extremely infectious bacterial infection in 20 out of Nigeria’s 36 states.
According to a statement released on Tuesday by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), a prominent factor contributing to the region’s high infection rate is a significant discrepancy in vaccination rates.
A government survey in Nigeria revealed that only 42% of children under 15 years old are fully safeguarded against diphtheria. Similarly, Guinea has an immunization rate of 47%, which falls significantly below the recommended 80-85% rate by the World Health Organization for community protection.
According to MSF, the condition of the impacted nations has been made worse due to a worldwide scarcity of the diphtheria vaccine, as there has been a surge in demand to combat outbreaks.
Dr. Dagemlidet Tesfaye Worku, the emergency medical program manager for MSF in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, stated that there is not enough vaccination occurring at the necessary level. A significant increase in vaccination needs to take place as soon as possible.
According to Adetifa, the head of the Nigeria CDC, the Nigerian government is increasing efforts to vaccinate specific groups and also helping states improve their ability to identify and handle cases.
However, some states are still facing difficulties, such as Kano. Kano is responsible for over 75% of diphtheria cases in Nigeria, yet it only has two treatment centers for the disease, according to Abubakar Labaran Yusuf, the state’s leading health authority.
According to Adetifa, when individuals are required to travel long distances in order to receive treatment, it can present a difficulty.