The Senate has mandated the Federal Ministry of Health to, as a matter of urgency, commence immunisation of vulnerable Nigerians against diphtheria disease following the death of 20 people in Kaduna State.
Its decision followed a motion which came under order 41 and 51 sponsored by Sunday Marshall Katung (PDP Kaduna South) informing the senators that about 20 people have died of diphtheria in Kafanchan and Makarfi local government areas of Kaduna State.
Katung said the index case of a four-year-old male child whose illness started on July 4 in Jema’a 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 at Sunday the 23rd of July 2023;
“Also notes that a breakdown shows 10 people have reportedly died from the disease in Kafanchan, Jema’a local government area of Kaduna State, while three children died in Makarfi Local Government Area, while seven others were hospitalised.”
“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;
Worried that the highly contagious nature of the disease means that without immediate and concerted efforts towards curbing it, the disease would spread at a devastating rate especially considering the communal and poor living conditions in most rural communities in Nigeria;
“Avers that Nigeria’s recent experiences with Ebola virus and the Covid-19 pandemic shows why outbreaks of virus epidemics must be fought with the best biomedical and scientific tools and knowledge available,” Katung said.
The Senate, however, mandated the Federal Ministry of Health, the Nigeria 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.
Also, the Senate called for intensification of search for active cases of diphtheria with contact tracing, risk communication activities and movement of affected cases to health facilities for management.
The senator also mandated the Federal Ministry of Health to liaise with the Kaduna State Ministry of Health with a view to moving health workers to the affected areas and also intensifying surveillance activities across the 23 LGAs of Kaduna State and neighboring states of Kano, Plateau and Nasarawa states.
“The ministry of health should carry out immunization across the country and the executive should fully fund all research institutions and agencies involved in vaccine production,” the Senate said.
Contributing to the debate, Senator Ibrahim Khalid (PDP Kaduna North), who seconded Katung’s motion, added that the disease was dangerous and deadly.
Khalid said the spread of the disease is wider now adding that instead of focusing on the five local governments that are affected, the government should look at a holistic approach.
The lawmaker said Jama’a and Makarfi LGAs are boundary towns with Kano and Katsina while Jama’a LGA shared boundary with Nasarawa and Plateau states adding that if the disease is contained in these communities, it will help stop the loss of lives.
After contributions from other senators, the Senate President Goodwill Akpabio, said, “This one has a preventable solution. Everyone should be up and doing so that this disease does not reach a pandemic level.”