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Diphtheria: Crises in Yemen and Venezuela result in re-emergence

Image/CDC

War and conflict in Yemen and in Venezuela, a socialistic government and resulting economic and social chaos that goes hand-in-hand with that form of government, has caused a destruction of existing health care systems and an interruption in vaccinations among the population.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) recently reported the latest diphtheria situations in those desperate countries.

Yemen/CIA

Yemen

On 16 November 2017, WHO reports 120 clinically cases of diphtheria and 14 deaths in past weeks in Yemen, mostly in children. At least one million children are currently at risk of contracting diphtheria as a result of the unavailability of vaccines and medicines in Yemen.

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Diphtheria is endemic in Yemen. The last recorded cases were in 2013. According to UNICEF , the percentage of surviving infants who received the 1st and 3rd dose of diphtheria and tetanus toxoid with pertussis containing vaccine (DTP1/DTP3) in the last ten years was between 81% and 88%.

Venezuela

In Venezuela, in 2017, as of week 42, 511 probable diphtheria cases were reported. Samples were taken from 452 of the cases (88.5%), of which 146 (32.3%) were laboratory confirmed (69 by isolation and determination of toxin production by Elek test and 38 by Polymerase Chain Reaction). The confirmed cases were reported in 17 federal entities.

LISTEN: Diphtheria: A short history, the disease, treatment and the success of the vaccines

According to the report provided by Venezuelan authorities, from January to September 2017, vaccination coverage in children under one year of age reached 68%, and 42% of children aged five had the booster. The Venezuela Ministry of Health has intensified vaccination against diphtheria as part of the national plan. Nine million doses of the vaccine are available for this activity. In addition, national and local authorities are strengthening epidemiological surveillance, active search and investigation of cases and contact tracing.

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