Islamabad: The National Institute of Health (NIH) Islamabad has advised the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) to ensure the availability of Diphtheria Antitoxin in the country after dozens of children in Pakistan died due to the country’s diphtheria outbreak, Pakistan based The News International reports.
Over 45 children and teenagers lost their lives due to diphtheria across Pakistan in 2022 while hundreds of suspected cases have been reported from Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan, officials say, The News international reports.
Diphtheria, a vaccine-preventable disease, is caused by strains of a bacterium called ‘Corynebacterium diphtheria’ that make toxins. The disease can lead to breathing, heart rhythm problems and even death.
In Pakistan, children are given a vaccine, a combination of five vaccines that protects them from five major diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type b (DTP-hepB-Hib).
Pakistan’s Ministry of Health Services blamed the diphtheria resurgence on the poor quality of vaccination.
according to an NIH advisory titled “Advisory for Prevention and Treatment of Corynebacterium diphtheria”, diphtheria is a life-threatening bacterial disease caused by infection with toxin-producing strains of Corynebacterium diphtheria, The News International reported.
Diphtheria cases continue to be reported in Pakistan. Such cases are usually prevalent from November to February. A total of 26 laboratory-confirmed cases were reported in 2022.
A person could be infected with Corynebacterium diphtheria if they have upper respiratory tract illness characterized by laryngitis or pharyngitis or tonsillitis and a visible adherent ‘membrane” on the tonsils, pharynx and/or nose.
The disease can be transmitted from one person to another through respiratory droplets (coughing or sneezing). The infection may also come by contact/touching open sores (skin lesions) and material objects (toys or clothes) used by the person already contracted diphtheria, The News International reported.