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Home Publications Blogs Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch Diphtheria Outbreak Leads to Emergency Vaccination Program

Diphtheria Outbreak Leads to Emergency Vaccination Program

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Tuesday, 18 May 2010 16:31
Just over a week ago, CNN aired a report with Sean Penn on the case of Oriel, a 15 year old who contracted diphtheria and eventually died. We wrote then:
The report does a good job describing how - despite its fixation on Penn’s personality – that the boy’s life might have been saved had, first, vaccinations been available, and then, second, the antitoxin to treat diphtheria been more easily accessible once Oriel came down with the disease. Yet, as CNN reported, “it took Penn -- even with his star power -- 11 hours to get his hands on one dose.”
After the report, the World Health Organization responded by saying that it was "just an isolated case and there are no other cases."

Today, the UN News Center reports that an outbreak of the disease over the weekend has prompted health authorities to begin a targeted vaccination campaign, writing:
Cases of the disease were first reported on Saturday in Camp Batimat in Cité Soleil district, one of the settlements housing people displaced by the January earthquake, Christiane Berthiaume, spokesperson for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), told reporters in Geneva.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF are supporting the vaccination campaign led by Haiti’s health ministry. About 2,000 people thought to have been exposed to the diphtheria bacterium are being specifically targeted in the vaccination campaign, carried out by more than 80 vaccinators.

Diphtheria is an infectious disease that spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets from the throat through coughing and sneezing. The illness usually affects the tonsils, pharynx, larynx and occasionally the skin. Symptoms range from a moderately sore throat to toxic life-threatening diphtheria of the larynx or of the lower and upper respiratory tracts.
The CNN report last week noted that Penn, "wants aid agencies to begin immediate vaccinations. UNICEF has plans to do just that, but has not started yet."

With some 1.5 million Haitians living in squalid conditions in IDP camps, there have long been warnings of possible outbreaks of disease.

Tags: disease | sanitation | sean penn | unicef | who

 

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