KANO, Nigeria (AP) – Nigerian health officials on Friday confirmed an outbreak of diphtheria and reported that 25 people, most of them children, have died so far in one of the worst-hit states in the north of the country.
The total number of confirmed cases and deaths is not yet known. The Nigeria Center for Disease Control and Prevention has launched an emergency response to the outbreak and is monitoring the situation in four of the country’s 36 states, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, the head of the agency, in a statement.
The Kano State Health Commission, Dr. Aminu Tsanyawa said the state has registered more than 70 suspected cases and 25 deaths linked to the bacterial infection.
Diphtheria causes difficulty breathing, heart failure and paralysis. Those most at risk are unvaccinated or live in overcrowded areas or in areas with poor sanitation.
Nigeria has not had a diphtheria outbreak of this magnitude in recent years, despite limited capacity to diagnose the disease and treat patients in many remote areas.
In 2020, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, warned that routine vaccination against the infection in Nigeria had declined in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
according to dr Abdullahi Kauran-Mata, the state’s chief epidemiologist, first notified authorities of an outbreak in children at a state hospital in Kano in late December.
“Immediately we received the information, we quickly mobilized our team through the Ministry of Health and the investigation began,” Kauran-Mata said.
Asadu reported from Abuja, Nigeria.