First case of diphtheria in Spain since 1986

First case of diphtheria in Spain since 1986

diphtheria bacteria

A kid of 6 years old is in Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in Hospital Vall d’Hebron of Barcelona due to diphtheria. Last registered cases of this infection in Spain was back in 1986, as per Instituto de Salud Carlos III.

On the 25th of May the kid started having the first symptoms. As per Ministry of Health of Spain, he had not been vaccinated. As per symptoms he started presenting malaise, headache, sore throat (pain while eating) and fever.

On the 30th, the National Center for Microbiology, confirmed the presence of Corynebacterium diphtheriae which is the bacterium that causes diphtheria. On the same day the little one was transferred to Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in Hospital Vall d’Hebron of Barcelona in a critical stage. The epidemiologist of Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, Antoni Trilla, that the parents of the kid have another child who they didn’t immunized as they don’t support vaccines.

Getting a vaccine

Diphtheria is a respiratory disease which CAN BE MORTAL. It causes a very severe disease of the upper airways which can lead to suffocation. In addition, the bacterium that causes the disease also attacks the heart and central nervous system, which can leave marks. But the percentage of mortal cases of this infection is between 5% and 10% of the cases.

The Deputy General Director of Surveillance and Emergency Response to Public Health Agency of Catalonia, Mireia Jané, explained that the kid was in camping last week with other kids from his school. Due to that, this Saturday – when the Health Department confirmed the case – the Ministry is following between 100 and 150 persons who have been in contact with the child. Mainly the family, school mates and the hospital workers. Specially the ones who attended the kid before it was declared to be a case of diphtheria. In regards to school mates, Jané says “we are reviewing the immunization schedules and provide with the dose the ones that didn’t have the correct schedule or the ones who haven’t received the dose at all”.

To administer diphtheria antitoxin, Spain had to ask it from other countries because there was no antitoxins in stock in Spain. This is because there has not been any cases of this infection in Spain since almost 30 years already. Neither World Health Organization nor Atlanta’s CDC did not have the drug.

How diphtheria spread

How diphtheria spread?

Diphtheria spreads like a cold, through the airways, mainly by coughing and sneezing. Trilla confirms that there’s no need to panic because 90% of the country is immune to it. In Spain the vaccine of diphtheria has been included in the calendar of vaccines since 1944. The calendar provides for six doses: at 2, 4, 6 and 18 months old, and another injections at age 6 and 13. The vaccine looses its effect when already adult.

“The first symptoms are very similar to anginas”, says Francisco Álvarez, Secretary of Advisory Committee on Vaccines of the Spanish Association of Pediatrics (in spanish: Comité Asesor de Vacunas de la Asociación Española de Pediatría).

Meelis Paloson

Meelis Paloson

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Meelis Paloson