The Nigerian Senate has urged the Federal Ministry of Health to begin immunization of vulnerable Nigerians against Diphtheria disease given the death of 20 people in Kaduna State.
The Senate resolution was a sequel to a motion at the plenary on Wednesday sponsored by Sen. Sunday Katung (PDP PDP- Kaduna -South) notifying the red chamber on the death of 20 people in Kafanchan and Makarfi local government areas of Kaduna State.
Diphtheria is a serious infection caused by strains of bacteria called Corynebacterium diphtheriae that make toxins. It can lead to difficulty breathing, heart rhythm problems, and even death.
Katung said the index case of a four-year-old male child whose illness started on July 4 in Jema’a Local Government Area (LGA) has led to the killing of about 20 people.
“Further notes that since this index case, the Kaduna State Government has confirmed that the death toll from the diphtheria outbreak in the state has risen to 17 with 68 suspected cases identified across the state as of Sunday, July 23, 2023.
“Also notes that a breakdown shows 10 people have reportedly died from the disease in Kafanchan, Jema’a LGA of Kaduna State, while three died in Makarfi LGA, while seven others were hospitalized.
“Cognisant that diphtheria is a highly contagious, infectious disease caused by a bacterium called Corynebacterium diphtheria rendering infected people struck with serious breathing and swallowing problems that may develop sores on the skin.”
The lawmaker expressed concern that the highly contagious nature of the disease means that without immediate and concerted efforts towards curbing it, it would spread at a devastating rate in rural communities.
He said Nigeria’s recent experiences with the Ebola virus and the COVID-19 pandemic showed why outbreaks of virus epidemics must be fought with the best biomedical and scientific tools and knowledge available.
Also, Sen Ibrahim Khalid (PDP- Kaduna), who seconded the motion, said the disease was dangerous and deadly.
Khalid said the spread of the disease was wider, adding that instead of focusing on the five affected LGAs, the government should look at a holistic approach.
According to him, Jama’a and Makarfi LGAs are border towns with Kano, Katsina while Jama’a LGA shares borders with Nasarawa and Plateau state
He said if the disease was contained in the communities, it would help stop the loss of lives.
Sen.Tony Nwoye (LP- Anambra North) said the disease was infectious and dangerous like Ebola and COVID-19.
He said that the bacteria was very stubborn, adding that the government must provide the vaccine immediately.
Sen. Darlington Nwokocha said the motion was a wakeup call, adding that the Senate must look at the health sector budget critically.
Sen Diket Plang said the nature of the disease was very dangerous, adding that the season was a season where people interact and the disease could be spread through contact.
President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, who thanked Katung for the motion, said vaccination would save lives and help the country from going into a pandemic.
“This one has a preventable solution. Everyone should be up and doing so that this disease does not reach a pandemic level,” Akpabio said.
Also, the Senate in its further resolutions mandated the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) and the Primary Health Care Development Agency (PHCDA) to liaise with the hierarchy of the Kaduna State Ministry of Health and other states for massive vaccines against the disease.
It called for a search of active cases of diphtheria with contact tracing, risk communication activities, and movement of affected cases to health facilities for management.
It also mandated the Federal Ministry of Health to liaise with the Kaduna State Ministry of Health to deploy health workers to affected areas and intensify surveillance activities across the 23 LGAs of Kaduna State and neighboring states.