Diphtheria outbreak response - Bangladesh

16 January 2018

Article: 52/0202

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released US $1.5 million from its Contingency Fund for Emergencies to scale up response to a diphtheria outbreak among the Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

The funds are being used to support immunisation, provide essential medicines and supplies, improve capacities for laboratory testing, case management and contract tracing and engage with communities.

Diphtheria is an infectious respiratory disease. It spreads through air droplets by coughing or sneezing. Risk factors include crowding, poor hygiene and lack of immunisation. Between 8 November and 31 December, 28 deaths and 3014 suspected cases of diphtheria were reported from Cox’s Bazar. Nearly 10,594 contacts of these suspected cases have been put on diphtheria preventive medication.

In a vaccination campaign that ended on 31 December 2017, 149,962 children aged six months to six years were administered vaccines for diphtheria and other life threatening diseases. Additionally, 165,927 children and adolescents aged seven years to 15 years were given diphtheria tetanus (DT) vaccine.

School children, living in areas close to the Rohingya camps in Ukhia and Tekhna sub-districts have since been administered a dose of DT vaccine, as part of the outbreak response. Childhood vaccination coverage is already high in Bangladesh. Protecting children with another dose of DT as a precautionary measure, is intended to further curtail the spread of the disease.

Source:  WHO South East Asia Regional Office, 2 January 2018