The South Africa National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) issued a diphtheria alert today for health care providers:
Two laboratory-confirmed cases of toxigenic Corynebacterium diphtheria disease were in identified in April 2023. One was in the Western Cape in a child and the other in an adult in KwaZulu-Natal.
These cases are a reminder that a drop in vaccine coverage (likely due to the pandemic) may lead to more cases and that C. diphtheriae may be circulating undetected in other provinces.
Diphtheria antitoxin is in short supply globally; the World Health Organization is working to secure additional supplies of antitoxin. Treatment in the absence of anti-toxin is appropriate antibiotics and supportive care.
All clinicians throughout the country are urged to have a high index of suspicion for diphtheria, to notify suspected cases and to send specimens to the laboratory for testing.