Indonesian health officials have reported a substantial increase in diphtheria cases in 2017, calling it an “extraordinary event”.

Image/Indonesian health ministry
Image/Indonesian health ministry

According to Director General of Disease Prevention and Control at the Ministry of Health Muhammad Subuh, 593 diphtheria cases have been reported from 95 cities in 20 provinces of the country, including 32 fatalities.

This is a 42 percent increase compared to 2016 when 415 cases and 24 deaths were recorded.

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“We have seen an acceleration in cases compared to last year … We are implementing an immunization program to prevent a pandemic,” said Dr Subuh.

LISTEN: Diphtheria: A short history, the disease, treatment and the success of the vaccines

The Indonesian government has successfully eliminated diphtheria from the country in 1990 where a massive immunization program was promoted by the government, including diphtheria immunization given to newborns.

“But diphtheria disease re-emerged in 2009, and gradually increased in number of years until what happened at the moment,” said Subuh.