Nigeria’s health authorities declared a diphtheria outbreak on Thursday, a month after the disease killed a four-year-old in the capital, Abuja.
Multiple outbreaks have occurred across the country since late last year, with 798 confirmed cases reported as of June of this year, the Nigeria Center for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) said in a statement.
“So far, a total of 80 deaths have been recorded among all confirmed cases,” the NCDC stated.
Diphtheria is a highly infectious disease caused by a toxin produced by bacteria that can lead to breathing difficulties, heart rhythm problems, and even death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The West African country’s health agency said it is “a vaccine-preventable disease covered by one of the vaccines provided routinely through Nigeria’s childhood immunization schedule.”
It reported that the majority of confirmed cases occurred among children between the ages of two and 14.
According to the NCDC, despite the “availability of a safe and cost-effective vaccine in the country,” a significant majority of infected people are unvaccinated.
It has urged people to get inoculated, and healthcare workers have been instructed to immediately notify disease surveillance officers about suspected cases.
Meanwhile, the Health and Human Services Secretariat in Abuja is said to have activated the diphtheria Incident Management System (IMS) to coordinate epidemic response activities.