Health Desk:14 January 2018: The Bangladesh government, the WHO, UNICEF and other partners in the health sector are vaccinating more than 475,000 children in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar in response to the diphtheria outbreak.
“All efforts are being made to stop further spread of diphtheria,” WHO Representative to Bangladesh Dr Bardan Jung Rana said in a statement.
“The vaccination of children in the Rohingya camps and nearby areas demonstrates the health sector’s commitment to protecting people, particularly children, against deadly diseases.”
The campaign gave pentavalent vaccines (which protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Haemophilus influenza type B and hepatitis B) to 150,000 children between six weeks and seven years of age and tetanus and diphtheria (Td) vaccines to 166,000 children between 5-17 years of age. The campaign ended on Dec 31, with two more rounds planned.
Thirty-one people died and another 3,954 suspected cases of diphtheria were reported from Cox’s Bazar between November and January, according to UNICEF. About 10,594 people in contact with these cases are receiving diphtheria preventive medication.
The WHO is giving $1.5 million to scale up the response to the outbreak. The funds will be used to support immunization, provide medicine and supplies and improve laboratory capacity.
Diphtheria is an infectious disease that infects the throat and produces a toxin that affects other organs. It can cause dead tissue to build up in the throat and tonsils, restricting breathing and making swallowing difficult. The disease is spread through direct physical contact or breathing in secretions from coughs and sneezes.