MYANMAR : The Ministry of Health has confirmed that six children have died from diphtheria in Yangon and Ayeyarwady regions this year.
According to the Public Health Regional Report for diphtheria, a contagious bacterial disease, cases have been discovered in Yangon, Ayeyarwady and Magwe regions.
Five children died in Yangon and one child succumbed to the disease in Ayeyarwady Region, U Than Tun Aung, deputy director of the public health department, told The Myanmar Times. Ten cases, out of which five were deadly, were discovered in the Shwe Pyi Thar nunnery in Yangon.
Diphtheria predominantly affects children under the age of 15 and most cases are caused by the Corynebacterium diphtheria bacterium. The disease is usually spread person-to-person through sneezing or coughing. Symptoms start two to five days after exposure and often include a sore throat and fever.
Without medical treatment, patients can die from the infection within two days, according to U Than Tun Aung.
Diphtheria occurs annually in 20 and 60 patients every year in Myanmar. Last year saw a spike with 84 people diagnosed with the disease. Ten children did not survive that outbreak, U Than Tun Aung added.
“Most of these children are ethnic minorities who come from areas where vaccines are not available, like conflict areas or places where transportation is difficult,” he said.
Continuous prevention programs in the form of vaccinations are organised by the government, both in and outside of Yangon.
“Yangon should be a primary area because there is a lot of migration,” U Than Tun Aung said.
In Shan, Rakhine and Chin states, there is a lower uptake of booster vaccines, though public health data shows 90 percent of children have been covered in vaccine programs.