While details on infectious disease outbreaks remain sketchy with little information coming out of the Venezuelan Ministry of Health, the Venezuelan Society of Public Health has been putting out unofficial data on outbreaks of malaria and diphtheria.

At the end of November,  The Venezuelan Society of Public Health issued an alert concerning diphtheria in the country that stated the number of cases stood at somewhere between 200-300 cases.


It is noted however, “The number must be taken with caution because it’s not known exactly how many confirmed cases and deaths there truly are due to the epidemiological silence in the country.”

Last week, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) released an Epidemiological Alert on the diphtheria situation in the Americas. Concerning Venezuela, the health agency reports:

In the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, suspected cases and/or probable diphtheria cases have been reported between September 2016 and 24 November 2016.

Out of a total of 183 samples processed by the “Rafael Rangel” National Hygiene Institute, 20 were positive (isolation of toxin-producing C. diphtheriae or by PCR).

The 20 positive cases were reported in six states, with the state of Bolivar reporting the largest number of cases (60 %), followed by the state of Monagas (20%).

Among the confirmed cases, 5 are deceased (3 of Bolivar state and 2 of Monagas).

This is the most “official” data known to date.

Two other countries have reported diphtheria cases in 2016, according to PAHO: Haiti and the Dominican Republic, or Hispaniola.

In Haiti, up to Epidemiological Week (EW) 48 of 2016, a total of 76 probable diphtheria cases were notified, including 16 deaths. Among the cases, 72 samples were obtained, 33 of which resulted positive to Corynebacterium diptheriae.

The cases were reported in all ten departments of Haiti; however, almost half of them were concentrated in the departments of Artibonite, Centre, and Ouest.

With respect to the characteristics of the cases, the majority (38%) was between 5 and 10 years of age and there were no differences by sex. For 66% of the cases, their vaccination status was unknown or they were not vaccinated.

In neighboring Dominican Republic, the UN agency reports:

In EW 43, two children under three years of age, both residents of Santo Domingo, 1 presented the onset of symptoms of diphtheria. One of them died. In samples of both cases, Gram-positive bacilli compatible with C. diptheriae were isolated. There were no additional cases. The vaccination status for the deceased child is unknown and the second case only had a dose.