The Thai Ministry of Public Health announced today the commencement of a diphtheria vaccination campaign after an increase in reported cases in recent years.
According to the National News Bureau of Thailand, the number of diphtheria cases dropped dramatically after the introduction of the vaccine nearly 30 years ago. However, in recent years the number of cases reported have jumped in the south Asian country.
In 2013, 63 people were treated for diphtheria. Last year, sixteen people in Thailand were contracted with the disease, and 4 have succumbed to death. This after reporting cases in the single digits for years.
Diphtheria is a dangerous respiratory disease is caused by a potent toxin produced by certain strains of the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae. Diphtheria is extremely contagious through coughing or sneezing. Riskfactors include crowding, poor hygiene, and lack of immunization.
Symptoms usually appear within a week of infection. Thisinfection is characterized by a sore throat, coughing and fever very similar to many common diseases like strep throat. Additional symptoms may be bloody, watery discharge from the nose and rapid breathing. However, a presumptivediagnosis can be made by observing a characteristic thick grayish patch (membrane) found in the throat. In more severe cases, neck swelling and airway obstruction may be observed. In the tropics, cutaneous and wound diphtheria is much more common and can be a source of transmission.
The real serious danger is when the toxin that is produced by the bacterium gets into the bloodstream and spreads to organs like the heart and nervous system. Myocarditis, congestive heart failure and neurological illnesses of paralysis that mimic Guillain-Barre syndrome are most severe. Even with treatment, fatalities are still seen in up to 10% of cases.
Diphtheria can be treated and cured successfully with antitoxin and antibiotics if started early enough. The prevention of diphtheria is through vaccination. For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page