The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a travel notice for the Philippines yesterday due to increased number of diphtheria cases reported in several regions of the country.
During the first three months of 2023, Philippines health officials reported 32 diphtheria cases, a 700 percent increase compared to the four cases reported during the same period in 2022.
Increases in cases are reported in the Metro Manila area which has seen 12 cases to date, also Calabarzon, Central Luzon, Zamboanga Peninsula, Western Visayas and the BARMM – Bangsamoro Autonomous Region In Muslim Mindanao.
Nine deaths have been reported for a case fatality rate of 28 percent.
CDC says vaccination against diphtheria is essential to protect against disease. If you are traveling to an affected area, you should be up to date with your diphtheria vaccines. Before travel, discuss the need for a booster dose with your healthcare professional.
Avoid contact with persons with symptoms of diphtheria (fever, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, change in voice, shortness of breath, weakness, or fatigue) and touching wounds of others.
If you feel sick during or after travel, seek medical care immediately. Tell the clinician about your diphtheria vaccination status and travel exposures. If you are sick and unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated against diphtheria you are at increased risk of becoming very sick when exposed to diphtheria It is important to start treatment with antitoxin and antibiotics as soon as possible.
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.
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 sick and unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated against diphtheria you are at increased risk of becoming very sick when exposed to diphtheria. It is important to start treatment with diphtheria antitoxin and antibiotics as soon as possible.
CDC recommends that everyone 2 months and older get vaccinated to protect against diphtheria.