Outbreak News Today

Diphtheria spinning out of control with displaced Rohingya population

In a follow-up to a report from two weeks ago, the number of suspected diphtheria cases in the outbreak primarily affecting displaced Rohingya population is shooting through the roof with the latest numbers released last week showing a total of 2,526 cases suspected with diphtheria, including 27 deaths.

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The current outbreak is mainly occurring within the displaced Rohingya population living in the Balukali makeshift and extension camps. Cases are also being reported from the Kutupalong extension, Thangkhali, Jamtoli, and Nyapara camps. This population is also affected by malnutrition, low routine immunization coverage, and poor access to clean water and sanitation facilities.

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

During the first week of Dec. 2017, we got the first warning of the possibility of a major public health issue with diphtheria. The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that diphtheria is rapidly spreading among Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh when at the time 110 suspected cases were reported.

WHO Representative to Bangladesh, Dr Navaratnasamy Paranietharan said at the time, “These cases could be just the tip of the iceberg. This is an extremely vulnerable population with low vaccination coverage”.

Of the case total, 75 percent of cases are in children 15 years and younger.

As of 26 December, 109,487 children 6 weeks to under 7 years were vaccinated with Penta, PCV, and bOPV and 102,383 children aged 7-15 years were vaccinated with Td vaccine.

New diphtheria treatment and isolation centers opened recently to increase capacity for treating patients suspected with diphtheria.

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