AT LEAST 29 cases of diphtheria, including two deaths, were recorded by the Department of Health (DOH) Cordillera this year compared to the single case and zero deaths recorded in 2018.
In the weekly Kapihan sa Baguio, Dr. Jeniffer Joyce Pira, Medical Officer IV of the DOH Center for Health in the region, said proper hygiene is the most important element to observe to prevent diphtheria.
“How do we get this virus? This is usually because of lack of immunization, lack of the pruning of our immune system through the vaccines that are being provided by the Department of Health with one of which is the diphtheria vaccines. Another is if the patient has an incomplete vaccination to which since we are human beings, we mingle around. So not only children are infected but also the adults who also become carriers and they bring home the infection in the households which affects the children the most or who are symptomatic,” Pira added.
Diphtheria is an infection caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae. Diphtheria causes a thick covering in the back of the throat. It can lead to difficulty breathing, heart failure, paralysis, and even death. CDC recommends vaccines for infants, children, teens and adults to prevent diphtheria.
“The disease, if it becomes neglected, deaths occur. But these deaths are not generally diphtheria, these are suspect cases because there are some who may not be collected of the samples already and were diagnosed clinically but not through laboratory exams,” Pira said.
Signs and symptoms usually begin two to five days after a person becomes infected and may include a thick, gray membrane covering your throat and tonsils, a sore throat and hoarseness, swollen glands (enlarged lymph nodes) in the neck, difficulty breathing or rapid breathing, nasal discharge, fever and chills, malaise or a feeling of general discomfort, uneasiness, or pain, often the first sign of an infection or other disease.
There are four vaccines that include protection against diphtheria starting with DT vaccine that protects young children from diphtheria and tetanus.
The Tdap vaccine protects preteens, teens, and adults from tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough. The Td vaccine protects preteens, teens, and adults from tetanus and diphtheria.
Meanwhile, the DOH-Cordillera continues to monitor measles cases, as it recorded a 403 percent increase from January to November this year with 1,028 cases, as compared to 204 cases in 2018.
Although the health department considers this as alarming, these cases are still considered suspected cases.
“In the point of view of the DOH, yes it is alarming because this is too high. But this is actually not termed as measles cases and were hoping that this is just a simple SVI or systemic viral infection which is not measles which will be classified once we get the laboratory report,” Pira added.