DOH: Diphtheria cases slightly higher, but still no outbreak | Inquirer News

DOH: Diphtheria cases slightly higher, but still no outbreak

By: - Reporter / @jovicyeeINQ
/ 05:38 AM September 26, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday sought to ease fears that there might also an outbreak of diphtheria in the country, which is already in the midst of three epidemics.

According to Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo, the country annually sees around 150 cases of diphtheria, a bacterial infection that affects the throat and upper airways.

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For this year, he said, the reported cases “[aren’t] significantly higher” than last year’s to say that there is an outbreak.

“We still do get cases of diphtheria. What’s important with diphtheria is that we control it immediately to make sure it doesn’t spread by giving antibiotics to all of [a patient’s] contacts. So far, we haven’t had any outbreaks nor a continuous spread or transmission of diphtheria. We’re also not seeing any trend that is threatening as of this time,” Domingo told reporters.

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Grade 4 student dies

Worries about a diphtheria surge followed the death of a Grade 4 student in Manila on Friday.

The 10-year-old girl’s death, although still a suspected case of diphtheria, has led to low attendance at Jacinto Zamora Elementary School in the city’s Pandacan district.

Only 36 of 160 Grade 4 students were present on Wednesday.

School nurse Josefina de Guzman said the student who died had not been immunized against diphtheria.

The school has started to disinfect its facilities and begun administering prophylactic treatment to students.

The administration has posted on the gate a message to parents, assuring them that the school was free from the disease.

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Domingo said the DOH was still verifying if the death of the student was due to diphtheria.

If the case is confirmed positive, he said all of the people who had contact with the girl, including the health workers who had attended to her, would be given antibiotics.

On Tuesday, Anthony Calibo, division chief of the DOH’s Family Health Office, told senators that diphtheria, a vaccine-preventable disease, is “emerging” in some regions given the country’s low immunization coverage rate.

The country is already grappling with outbreaks of measles, dengue and polio.

Data from the DOH’s Epidemiology Bureau showed that as of Sept. 7, there are already 167 diphtheria cases nationwide, with 40 reported deaths. This is slightly higher than last year’s 122 cases and 30 deaths.

Among the regions, the National Capital Region recorded the highest number of cases—48, with 13 deaths.

Calabarzon and the Cordillera Administrative Region also saw a high incidence of diphtheria; both had 26 cases.

Brought about by the Corynebacterium diphtheriae bacterium, diphtheria is spread through sneezing, coughing and close personal contact.

Symptoms include weakness, sore throat, fever and swollen glands in the neck.

Kids vulnerable

Most affected are children aged 5 to 9, making up 37 percent of all recorded cases.

The median age of those who died from diphtheria is 4 years old.

Nearly half of all those who died were unvaccinated.

Domingo stressed that vaccination remains the primary protection against diphtheria.

He reminded parents that their children should receive the vaccine against diphtheria, along with those for pertussis and tetanus, by the time they turn 1.5 months.

The second and third doses of the vaccine are given by 2.5 months and 3.5 months.

Meanwhile, there are no new polio cases in the country, apart from those recorded in Lanao del Sur and Laguna provinces, Domingo said.

He said the seven cases the health department was monitoring in Zamboanga were just “part of the regular surveillance for acute flaccid paralysis (AFP).”

“Our surveillance for polio means that all cases of AFP or kids who have sudden weakness [in] their lower extremities have to be observed, tested and checked if they have polio. We are doing this all over the country. So far, of all the cases of AFP we only have two confirmed cases of polio,” he said.

DOH data showed that as of Sept. 7, there are already 264 cases of AFP nationwide, close to the 258 recorded last year.

Central Luzon had the highest incidence, 45 cases, followed by Western Visayas (28) and Calabarzon (25). —With a report from Nikka G. Valenzuela

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TAGS: Department of Health, diphtheria cases, DoH, Eric Domingo
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