Earlier this year we saw a rare case of diphtheria in Spain involving an 6-year-old unvaccinated child who attended a summer camp with 57 vaccinated children. A follow up investigation found 8 of the child’s healthy camp contacts were PCR positive for the diphtheria bacteria.
While vaccination is very protective against developing the disease, vaccination doesn’t preclude the asymptomatic carriage of the toxigenic C. diphtheriae bacteria.
Hence the need for high levels of vaccination in the population. Something that has been achieved in much of the world, but still lags badly behind in some of the poorer nations. Earlier this year the World Health Organization warned that Global vaccination targets were ‘off-track’, stating:
In 2013 nearly 22 million infants missed out on the required three doses of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis-containing vaccines (DTP3), many of them living in the world’s poorest countries. WHO is calling for an end to the unnecessary disability and death caused by failure to vaccinate.
Laos is one of those countries with poor DTP3 coverage. According to the 2015 PLoS One research article Diphtheria in Lao PDR: Insufficient Coverage or Ineffective Vaccine?, only 63.6% of a sampling of 132 children aged 12–59 months from Huaphan Province had detectable diphtheria antibodies.
Coverage rates in Laos are highly variable, with children living in the poorest, most remote areas being the least likely to get the full three doses of the vaccine.
While uncommon in Vietnam, earlier this year the MOH confirmed that a Diphtheria outbreak killed 3 in a remote village in Quang Nam Province. Today, the MOH has announced that neighboring Laos has reported nearly 600 cases in 2015, including 11 deaths, and is warning the illness could spread into Vietnam.
A patient with diphtheria symptoms at the Phuoc Son Medical Centre in Central Quang Nam Province. The Ministry of Health has warned about the risk of diphtheria outbreaks spreading from Laos through the border area into Viet Nam. — VNA/VNS Photo
HA NOI (VNS) — The Ministry of Health has warned about the risk of diphtheria outbreaks spreading from Laos through the border area into Viet Nam.
According to the ministry's Preventive Medicine Department, from June to October, diphtheria outbreaks were reported in six of the 17 provinces across Laos.
Until October 27, 2015, Laos has recorded 588 diphtheria infected cases among the total population of 6.7 million people, of which 11 people died. The cases occurred mainly in children under the age of 15, accounting for 61 per cent, or who had not been vaccinated against the contagious disease.
So far in 2015, Viet Nam has recorded only a few cases of diphtheria in some communes in the remote district of K'Bang in the Central Highlands Gia Lai province and two hamlets of Phuoc Loc Commune, Phuoc Son district in the central Quang Nam province because people living in these areas had not been vaccinated.
However, the diphtheria outbreaks currently occurring in Laos can spread to the border region between Viet Nam and Laos then to other areas of the country.
Currently, the ministry is closely following the diphtheria situation in Laos and regularly exchanging information with the country to implement appropriate control measures.