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Haiti health authorities concerned about diphtheria disease return

Published:Tuesday | October 24, 2017 | 3:05 PM
Demonstrators march during a protest in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on September 28. – AP

At least three people have died in Haiti, triggering concerns from health authorities about the return of diphtheria due to the lack of vaccination of children.

Diphtheria is an infectious disease due to three bacterial species capable of producing diphtheria toxin.

The bacterium is transmitted by air, specifically via aerosols emitted during a cough or sneezing during direct contact with a patient or asymptomatic carrier.

Symptoms include pharyngitis, fever, swelling of the neck and headache.

In some cases, the toxin can lead to paralysis of the central nervous system or the diaphragm and throat, resulting in death by asphyxiation.

Health authorities say during the first seven months of this year, there were 72 probable cases of diphtheria. Of that number, 74 per cent of the cases were children under 10 years old.

Health officials have said 22 cases were confirmed in the laboratory and three have since died.

They say immunisation status is unknown for 54.5 per cent of confirmed cases; while 18 per cent were vaccinated and 27 per cent were not.

The confirmed cases come from four departments: Artibonite, Center, West and Southeast.