By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

Haitian health officials have reported 20 confirmed diphtheria cases, including 4 deaths through the end of April this year. 46.4% have been reported in the age group of 6 to 14-year-olds and 34% in the group of 15-years and older. Regarding the deaths, 3 occurred among 6 to 14-year-olds and one among the 1 to 5-year-olds.


In addition, another 56 suspect cases were reported this period. This number is lower than recent years during the same period– 2018 (143 cases) and in 2019 (59 cases).

Since 2014, Haiti has reported more than 1000 suspected diphtheria cases, 345 confirmed and 67 deaths from the confirmed cases, for a 19 percent fatality rate.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), diphtheria is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae, which primarily infects the throat and upper airways, and produces a toxin affecting other organs. The illness has an acute onset and the main characteristics are sore throat, low fever and swollen glands in the neck, and the toxin may, in severe cases, cause myocarditis or peripheral neuropathy.

The diphtheria toxin causes a membrane of dead tissue to build up over the throat and tonsils, making breathing and swallowing difficult. The disease is spread through direct physical contact or from breathing in the aerosolized secretions from coughs or sneezes of infected individuals, according to WHO.

Diphtheria is fatal in 5-10% of the cases, with a high mortality rate in young children. Vaccinations are recommended for its prevention.