Diphtheria: a re-emerging public health challenge

Mustapha Y. Abubakar, Jamila Lawal, Hassan Dadi, Umaru S. Grema


Diphtheria is a highly contagious, potentially life threatening bacterial infection caused by Corynebacterium diphteriae. Diphtheria is transmitted from person to person, usually through respiratory droplets and can lead to severe breathing problems, heart failure, blood disorders and death. Diphtheria was basically eliminated after the introduction of the vaccine in the 1940-1950s. However there is presently global concern that diphtheria is reemerging. We herein report nine cases of diphtheria presenting within a period of six months. All cases presented with sore throat, fever, membrane in the oropharynx and bull neck. Eight of the cases had never been immunized against diphtheria. All cases progressed and developed various complications with 8 of the cases dying. None of the cases had diphtheria antitoxin. This cases present the potential for this highly fatal but preventable disease reemerging and the need to be aware of epidemiological features, clinical signs and symptoms of diphtheria so that cases can be promptly diagnosed and treated, and further public health measures can be taken to contain this serious disease.


Diphtheria, Diphtheria antitoxin, Nigeria, Vaccination

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