Diphtheria: Yet Another Outbreak

While walking through Obalende market in Lagos last Saturday, I happened to listen in on the conversation that ensued between two women. It was about the infectious outbreak that has been over the news in some parts of the country recently – Diphtheria. From their conversation, I could infer that they had limited knowledge about it. They seemed to think it was a new covid-19 variant or another corroborated scheme to hinder the upcoming election. It struck me then that quite a few people are probably in the same boat as these women. 

Diphtheria is not a new infection 

It is not a very common one either. This leads us to the question: “What exactly is diphtheria?” Diphtheria is an infectious disease which the causative is bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae. It primarily affects the respiratory system (Respiratory diphtheria), but can also infect the skin and other areas of the body. When it affects the skin (cutaneous diphtheria), it causes skin rash, sores, or blisters). Close contact with an infected person or with contaminated objects/surfaces help spread the disease. It usually starts two to ten days after exposure.

Symptoms of diphtheria can vary from mild to severe. They typically include a thick, grey, or white coating on the back of the throat, sore throat, fever, loud barking cough, swollen glands in the neck, bluish skin, difficulty in breathing, and a general feeling of uneasiness. In severe cases, diphtheria can cause heart and nerve damage, and even death.

Particularly noteworthy is that treatment typically involves the use of antibiotics to kill the bacteria and prevent disease spread. Also, a sufferer may receive supportive care, such as oxygen therapy or mechanical ventilation, to help with breathing.

Particularly, the prevention of diphtheria is possible through vaccination. The vaccine is typically given as part of a combination vaccine called the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) vaccine. It is recommended for children, adolescents, and adults. In addition to vaccination, good hygiene practices, such as washing hands regularly and avoiding close contact with infected individuals, can also help prevent the spread of the disease.

It’s important to note that Diphtheria is rare in developed countries due to high vaccination coverage. Apparently, it is still a significant public health concern in Nigeria. However, there exists a ray of hope. Increasing vaccination coverage, promoting good hygiene practices, improving access to healthcare, improving living conditions, and implementing an effective surveillance system can help control effectively and prevent further outbreaks of Diphtheria in Nigeria. This is a fight that requires collective effort and continued attention to ensure that this pestilent infection is no longer a threat to our beautiful nation.

Stay healthy and safe. Till later!

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