Since the last report on the diphtheria outbreak in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan two weeks ago, the number of fatalities has risen from 18 to 34 from the serious toxigenic disease, according to a recent The Nation report.


The large outbreak of the vaccine preventable disease has prompted strong words from Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. The deaths are due to a lack of diphtheria anti-toxin (DAT) in the country.

Shahbaz Sharif said he was deeply grieved over the children’s death and the persons guilty of negligence would not be spared. He expressed extreme indignation over the officers of concerned institutions for not purchasing the medicines for diphtheria in time and asked them why arrangements for the import of medicines were not made before the stock was finished.

“Delay in bringing the medicines for treatment of diphtheria is criminal negligence and no excuse will be accepted,” he warned.

Apparently according to reports, Croatia is the only place to buy DAT.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diagnosis of diphtheria is usually made based on signs and symptoms. A swab specimen is taken from the throat to test for the bacteria. A doctor can also take a sample from a skin lesion (like a sore) and try and grow the bacteria to confirm the diagnosis of diphtheria.

It is important to start treatment right away if diphtheria is suspected and not to wait for laboratory confirmation.

Diphtheria treatment today involves:

  • Using diphtheria antitoxin to neutralize (counteract) the toxin produced by the bacteria
  • Using antibiotics to kill and eliminate diphtheria bacteria

Diphtheria patients are usually kept in isolation, until they are no longer able to infect others — usually about 48 hours after antibiotic treatment begins. The disease is usually not able to be spread after the patient has been on antibiotics for 48 hours. After the course of antibiotic treatment is finished, the doctor will run tests to make sure the bacteria are not in the patient’s body anymore.

About 1 out of 10 people who gets diphtheria will die.