The Thailand Department of Disease Control (DDC) with the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) reports a diphtheria incidence rate that is 2 times higher than the same period of last year (2018) and also the median of the past 5 years (2014 – 2018).
Through Apr. 27, there had been nine confirmed diphtheria cases of which two died. The patients were found in 6 provinces including Uttaradit, Tak, Suratthani, Sonkhla, Satun, and Yala.
The highest incidence rates occurred among infants and young children less than 5 years olds followed by the 10 – 19 years age group.
Officials say there is a continued risk of sporadic diphtheria in crowded places such as child day-care centers and boarding schools especially in some areas with low diphtheria vaccination coverage.
Diphtheria is an acute bacterial infection of respiratory system which can cause mild to severe illness. Symptoms, develop 2 – 5 days after infection, include fever, sore throat, and swollen lymph glands in the neck. Severe illness presents with swollen neck and thick gray or white patch of dead tissue in the throat and tonsils caused by the bacterial toxin.
Complications are blocking of the airway and absorption of the toxin into the blood stream that may cause damage to the heart, kidneys and peripheral nerves and thus can lead to death. The severely ill patient must visit a hospital for a special medical care immediately to save life.
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Diphtheria is spread from person to person, usually through respiratory droplets, from coughing, sneezing and close contact. A person can also get infected by contacting with shared utensils contaminated with the bacteria. Some mild cases can transmit the bacteria to people around them. Recovered patients might not develop immunity against the disease.
The best way to prevent diphtheria is to get vaccinated. The DDC therefore advises parents to bring their children to get the complete vaccination series against diphtheria (DTP vaccine) as per the MOPH recommended immunization schedule. Pregnant women should also get the dT vaccine as per the schedule.