Health authorities in the Philippines have reported 20 total diphtheria cases through March 18, a 567 percent increase compared to the three cases reported during the same period in 2022.
Eight cases have been reported in the Metro Manila area, followed by Calabarzon with 5 and 3 cases in Central Luzon.
Six fatalities have been reported to date for a 30% case fatality rate. This compares with zero deaths reported last year through March 18.
Diphtheria is a serious infection caused by strains of Corynebacterium diphtheriae bacteria that make a toxin. The toxin can cause people to get very sick. Diphtheria bacteria spread from person to person through respiratory droplets like from coughing or sneezing, People can also get sick from touching open sores or ulcers of people sick with diphtheria.
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When the bacteria get into the respiratory system they can cause sore throat, mild fever, and swollen glands in the neck. The bacteria make a toxin that kills healthy tissues in the respiratory system and can make it difficult to breathe and swallow. The toxin can also cause heart, nerve, and kidney problems if it enters the bloodstream. Skin infections caused by C. diphtheriae typically consist of shallow ulcers (sores) and do not result in severe disease.
For some people, respiratory diphtheria can lead to death. Even with treatment, about 1 in 10 patients with respiratory diphtheria die. Without treatment, up to half of patients can die from the disease.
If you are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated against diphtheria and may have been exposed, it is important to start treatment, with antitoxin and antibiotics, as soon as possible.
The US CDC recommends that everyone 2 months and older get vaccinated to protect against diphtheria.
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