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Nigeria Finalizes National Diphtheria Laboratory Amid Rising Cases

Abuja, Nigeria – The Federal Government of Nigeria is in the final stages of establishing the National Diphtheria Laboratory to conduct both preliminary and confirmatory tests for diphtheria in the country. This development comes in response to the increasing number of suspected cases of diphtheria across Nigeria.

Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), revealed this information during a press briefing held in Abuja on Tuesday. According to Dr. Adetifa, there have been 13,204 reported suspected cases of diphtheria in Nigeria, out of which 8,406 cases have been confirmed. These cases have been reported from 114 Local Government Areas in 18 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

A breakdown by states indicates that Kano bears the highest disease burden, with 7,188 confirmed cases, representing 86 percent of the total cases. Other states with confirmed cases include Yobe (775), Katsina (232), Borno (118), Jigawa (23), Bauchi (20), Kaduna (17), Lagos (8), FCT (6), Gombe (5), Osun (3), Sokoto (3), Niger (2), Cross River (1), Enugu (1), Imo (1), Nasarawa (1), Zamfara (1), and Kebbi (1).

Of the 8,406 confirmed cases, 6,202 (73.7 percent) were aged between 1 and 14 years. Most of these confirmed cases were found to be unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, accounting for 64 percent of the cases. Another 11 percent had unknown vaccination status, while 25 percent were fully vaccinated against diphtheria.

Diphtheria is a vaccine-preventable disease, and vaccines are provided routinely through Nigeria’s childhood immunization schedule.

The NCDC, in collaboration with the National Primary Health Care Development Agency and its partners, has been working with the affected states to respond to diphtheria outbreaks in different regions of the country. Rapid response teams have been deployed to several states, despite security challenges limiting access to certain locations.

The establishment of the National Diphtheria Laboratory is part of Nigeria’s efforts to enhance its capacity for diphtheria testing. Currently, there are 14 laboratories in the Diphtheria Laboratory Network with the capacity to support testing, and the optimization of five additional laboratories at the subnational level is underway.

Dr. Faisal Shuaib, the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, highlighted the government’s comprehensive vaccination campaigns in response to the outbreak. These campaigns have been particularly focused on high-burden areas, including Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Bauchi, and Yobe.

Efforts to combat the outbreak also involve community engagement and risk communication, with a strong emphasis on building trust and addressing concerns within affected communities. The government aims to curb the spread of diphtheria through these multifaceted approaches, and ongoing vaccination efforts continue to be a central component of the response. Phase two of the vaccination campaign is set to begin in several high-burden states.

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