The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a travel notice for Nigeria due to an ongoing diphtheria outbreak.
More than 200 confirmed cases have been reported in the country since last May, including 40 deaths.
The CDC offers recommendations for travelers:
- Vaccination against diphtheria is essential to protect against disease. If you are traveling to an affected area, you should be up to date with your diphtheria vaccines. Before travel, discuss the need for a booster dose with your healthcare professional.
- Avoid contact with persons with symptoms of diphtheria, such as fever, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, change in voice, shortness of breath, weakness, or fatigue.
- Avoid touching the wounds of others.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- If you feel sick during travel, seek medical care immediately. If you are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated against diphtheria and may have been exposed, it is important to start treatment, with antitoxin and antibiotics, as soon as possible.
- If you feel sick after returning from travel, seek medical care immediately. Tell your healthcare professional about your diphtheria vaccination status and your recent travel, including where you went and what you did.
- Travelers should separate themselves from others (isolate) and seek medical care immediately if they develop fever, chills, muscle pain, rash, sore throat, diarrhea, weakness, vomiting, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising during or after travel (up to 21 days). Call ahead before going to a healthcare facility and tell your doctor that you’ve been to an area with Marburg virus.
Diphtheria is a serious infection caused by strains of Corynebacterium diphtheriae bacteria that make a toxin. The toxin can cause people to get very sick. Diphtheria bacteria spread from person to person through respiratory droplets like from coughing or sneezing, People can also get sick from touching open sores or ulcers of people sick with diphtheria.
When the bacteria get into the respiratory system they can cause sore throat, mild fever, and swollen glands in the neck. The bacteria make a toxin that kills healthy tissues in the respiratory system and can make it difficult to breathe and swallow. The toxin can also cause heart, nerve, and kidney problems if it enters the bloodstream. Skin infections caused by C. diphtheriae typically consist of shallow ulcers (sores) and do not result in severe disease.
For some people, respiratory diphtheria can lead to death. Even with treatment, about 1 in 10 patients with respiratory diphtheria die. Without treatment, up to half of patients can die from the disease.
If you are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated against diphtheria and may have been exposed, it is important to start treatment, with antitoxin and antibiotics, as soon as possible.
CDC recommends that everyone 2 months and older get vaccinated to protect against diphtheria.