The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has revealed that number of Nigerians who died of cholera since the beginning of the year 2021 is twice as many as those killed by COVID-19 from 2020 when the pandemic broke out in the country till now.
While the death toll from cholera has already exceeded 3,600 just about a month to the end of the year, the figure of those who died of COVID-19 complications since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country has yet to cross the 3,000 mark.
Cholera, an acute diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine, is contracted when patients swallow food or water contaminated with cholera bacteria.
Although the infection is often mild or without symptoms, it can be severe and life-threatening sometimes.
Speaking on Wednesday on a monitored Channels Television programme, NCDC Director-General, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa said: “Sadly, cholera has actually killed more people than COVID so far,” he said. “We have had I think a little over 3,600 deaths from cholera for the period of the year under review – the beginning of the year (2021) to date.”
Nigeria reported its first case of COVID-19 in late February last year and since then till the end of 2020, authorities said a total of 1,289 people lost the fight to the disease.
As of November 30 (Tuesday), the number of those who have died stood at 2,977 – suggesting that 1,688 more people died of COVID-19 in 2021.
The death toll from cholera in the last 11 months – as revealed by Adetifa, when compared with the figure of those killed by COVID-19, shows a difference of 1,912 which indicates that the former has killed more than twice as many people as the latter.
With the emergence of a new strain of COVID-19 known as Omicron (B.1.1.529 SARS-CoV-2 lineage), there are fears that Nigeria is focusing more on the pandemic than other diseases like cholera that have claimed more lives.
In his reaction, the NCDC chief explained that the agency has been tackling the diseases headlong and would not rest on its oars.
“I will like to reassure the public that while all of the public attention is on COVID, the NCDC is joggling several balls in terms of the other priority diseases of public health importance and we are responding to all of them,” said Adetifa. “So, the talk is about COVID, and nobody knows that we have teams out in about five, six states now helping with Cholera response.
“We’ve had rapid response teams in all of the states that have had cholera outbreaks. We have incident managers for Lassa fever that respond to cases that are reported, we are currently preparing for the meningitis season – the refresher training, the sensitisation.
“We would like all of these areas to receive equal or even more attention, but we have no choice but to focus on all of the diseases that are likely to have public health impact on the country according to the mandate that we have been given.”