Published On: Mon, Sep 10th, 2012

Dozens of children treated for diphtheria at Delhi hospital

In a follow-up to a report Thursday, the number of children being treated for the bacterial disease, diphtheria, continues to rise, particularly at Delhi’s Maharishi Valmiki Infectious Disease hospital.


According to a Times of India report, more than two dozen kids are being treated for the potentially lethal, vaccine-preventable infection.

“Over the past two weeks, we have been flooded with cases of diphtheria. At present, 26 patients are admitted with the disease in the hospital,” said Dr Seema Mukherjee, a senior doctor at the hospital. She said that most patients are from Haryana, UP and the NCR.

Laboratory tests have confirmed that the five children who died at two slum colonies in the last 10 days as previously reported were suffering from diphtheria.

One physician noted that diphtheria cases increase after monsoon season. Poor vaccination coverage is blamed on this outbreak although diphtheria is covered under the government of India’s universal immunization program.

Diphtheria is caused by a potent toxin produced by certain strains of the bacterium,Corynebacterium diphtheriae.

Diphtheria is extremely contagious through coughing or sneezing. Risk factors include crowding, poor hygiene, and lack of immunization.

Symptoms usually appear within a week of infection. This infection is characterized by a sore throat, coughing and fever very similar to many common diseases like strep throat. Additional symptoms may be bloody, watery discharge from the nose and rapid breathing. However, a presumptive diagnosis can be made by observing a characteristic thick grayish patch (membrane) found in the throat. In more severe cases, neck swelling and airway obstruction may be observed.

In the tropics, cutaneus and wound diphtheria is much more common and can be a source of transmission.

The real serious danger is when the toxin that is produced by the bacterium gets into the bloodstream and spreads to organs like the heart and nervous system. Myocarditis, congestive heart failure and neurological illnesses of paralysis that mimic Guillain-Barre syndrome are most severe. Even with treatment, fatalities are still seen in up to 10% of cases.

Diphtheria can be treated and cured successfully with antitoxin and antibiotics if started early enough.

The prevention of diphtheria is through vaccination. Immunity does wane after a period of time and revaccination should be done at least every 10 years.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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