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Health officials in Sindh province in southeastern Pakistan are reporting 39 diphtheria cases, including 10 fatalities in children during the past two months in Karachi and other areas, according to Pakistani media.

Image/Robert Herriman

“So far 10 children have lost their lives due to diphtheria in Sindh while 39 cases have been confirmed in the province”, Dr. Irshad Memon, Project Director of the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) said.

Senior Pediatric infectious diseases expert Dr. Asad Ali claims that number of deaths due to the vaccine-preventable disease could be five times higher than the official figures.

“We need outbreak investigation, higher rates of routine childhood immunization and additional booster Diphtheria-Pertussis-Tetanus (DPT) vaccine in our EPI programme”, Dr. Asad Ali, who is also the Associate Dean Research at Aga Khan University.

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The immunization rate is in the range of 70 percent; however, some experts say it may be much lower.

Diphtheria is a serious infection caused by strains of bacteria called Corynebacterium diphtheriae that makes toxin. Infection can lead to difficulty breathing, heart failure, kidney failure, paralysis, and even death. It is recommended that infants, children, teens, and adults get vaccinated to prevent diphtheria.

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