WHO Report on Diphtheria Outbreak in Africa - Situation Update #004 (Nov 26, 2023)

As of November 26, 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported a concerning outbreak of diphtheria across several countries in the African region.

A total of 22,842 suspected cases and 779 deaths have been recorded, with Nigeria, Guinea, Niger, Mauritania, and South Africa being the most affected nations. Nigeria accounts for the majority of both cases (83.9%) and deaths (73.5%).

Regional Distribution of Cases:

  1. Nigeria: Most Affected Country
  • Cases: 83.9% of the total
  • Deaths: 73.5% of the total
  1. Guinea:
  • Recent trends indicate a weekly increase in cases.
  1. Niger:
  • Decline in cases observed.
  1. Mauritania:
  • No new cases reported in the last four weeks.
  1. South Africa:
  • Cases and deaths reported, but detailed statistics not provided.

Demographic Trends:   

  1. Unvaccinated Cases:
  • Over 56% of documented cases are unvaccinated.
  1. Age Distribution:
  • More than 57% of suspected cases are under the age of 15.
  1. Gender Distribution:
  • Females constitute over 60% of the reported cases.

Additional Concerns:

  • Cameroon:
  • 3 suspected cases of diphtheria and 2 related deaths are currently under investigation.

Response Measures:

  • WHO Support:
  • WHO is actively supporting the affected countries (Nigeria, Guinea, Niger, Mauritania, and South Africa) to enhance their response coordination.
  • Measures include strengthening testing and case identification.
  • Mobilizing appropriate antibiotics and diphtheria antitoxin (DAT) for treating cases.
  • Enhancing vaccine coverage.
  • Surveillance and Vaccination Urgency:
  • Member States are strongly urged to enhance surveillance efforts for vaccine-preventable diseases.
  • Actively promote both access to and the uptake of vaccines.

The situation report underscores the severity of the diphtheria outbreak in the African region, with Nigeria being the epicenter. Urgent and coordinated efforts, as facilitated by WHO, are crucial for containing the outbreak, managing cases, and preventing further spread. Member States are urged to prioritize surveillance, vaccination campaigns, and public awareness to mitigate the impact of this public health emergency. Continued international support and collaboration are essential to effectively combat the outbreak and safeguard public health in the affected nations. WHO will likely provide regular updates and collaborate with relevant authorities to address this health crisis.


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