In a follow-up on the diphtheria situation in Venezuela, UN health officials report that the number of diphtheria cases reported in Venezuela in 2018 year to date has hit the 800 mark, up 260 cases in three months.

Image/Robert Herriman
Image/Robert Herriman

The diphtheria outbreak that began in July 2016 remains ongoing. Through mid-October, a total of 2,170 suspected cases were reported (324 cases in 2016, 1,040 in 2017, and 800 in 2018); of these, 1,249 were confirmed.

A total of 287 deaths were reported (17 in 2016, 103 in 2017, and 167 in 2018). The cumulative case-fatality rate among confirmed cases is 23%.

In 2018, 22 federal entities have reported confirmed cases. Cases have been reported among all age groups, but the most affected group is 1 to 39-year-olds, of which the highest incidence rate is among 10 to 14-year-olds followed by 5 to 9-year-olds.

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Diphtheria is an infection caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae. Diphtheria causes a thick covering in the back of the throat. It can lead to difficulty breathing, heart failure, paralysis, and even death. Vaccines are recommended for infants, children, teens and adults to prevent diphtheria.

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