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Saturday 22nd October 2016

Diphtheria jab urged after death

9th May 2008

A warning has been issued to parents to make sure their children are vaccinated against diphtheria.


The alert comes after a child in London died from what is thought to be diphtheria.

The Health Protection Agency said that steps had been taken - including antibiotics and booster immunisations - to prevent the child’s infection spreading to close contacts and other people.

Diphtheria affects the upper respiratory tract, nose, throat, voice box and upper windpipe, but is now rare in the UK with only three other deaths since 1994.

A UK-wide vaccination programme was introduced in 1942 and the isolated cases that have been seen are usually in unvaccinated people who have travelled to countries where the disease is still common.

Professor Peter Borriello from the HPA said: “It is rare for people to die from diphtheria as severe infection is prevented by immunisation and the majority of children are routinely immunised against diphtheria in the UK. This child had not been immunised.

“It is important that we maintain high levels of immunisation to prevent diphtheria in the UK. Whilst it is uncommon here, cases occur more frequently in other countries and therefore diphtheria can be introduced into the UK by people travelling.?

Symptoms of diphtheria include a sore throat, fever and swollen lymph glands in the neck.

In the UK babies are immunised against diphtheria when a few months old with booster doses given before starting school and then again at 16-18 years.

Since 2001, vaccine take-up has been 94%, though coverage in London is only 86%.


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