Nigeria has experienced a severe outbreak of diphtheria, with over 600 people, mainly children, dying since December 2022. With 14,000 suspected cases, the outbreak is far worse than the last one in 2011, when 98 cases were reported. Kano state, in northern Nigeria, is the epicentre, with over 500 deaths. Diphtheria is highly contagious, affecting the nose and throat and causing skin ulcers. It is spread through coughs, sneezes, or close contact with infected individuals. Although it is preventable through vaccines, many children who have died in Nigeria were unvaccinated, according to Dr Faisal Shuaib, head of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has suggested that the fatality and infection rate may be higher due to low testing and failure by some patients to report their symptoms. Health authorities are rallying parents to get their unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children immunized, as it is the most powerful way of controlling the outbreak.