Diphtheria claims third child in Central Highlands

By Tran Hoa   July 4, 2020 | 10:25 pm PT
Diphtheria claims third child in Central Highlands
Medical staff advise a mother and child and prepare documents to administer anti-diphtheria vaccine in Dak Nong Province, July 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Tran Hoa.
A four-year-old boy in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai succumbed to diphtheria Sunday morning after two days of treatment.

He was the third death in the ongoing diphtheria outbreak that has struck Vietnam's Central Highlands. A nine-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy both of Dak Nong Province, are the earlier victims.

"The boy was diagnosed with malignant diphtheria and suffered complications from diphtheria that triggered multiple organ damage. He died at 2:30 a.m.," said Mai Xuan Hai, director of Gia Lai’s Department of Health.

The boy, who belongs to the Ba Na ethnic minority community in Dak Doa District, developed symptoms of fever, cough and sore throat on June 28 after visiting his relatives in Kon Tum Province, a diphtheria-stricken locality. His parents self-medicated him, buying medicines from a nearby pharmacy, but after six days, his health worsened and he was taken to the province’s Children’s Hospital Friday.

Health authorities in Gia Lai are investigating why the boy was infected despite receiving four vaccine shots against diphtheria under the National Expanded Immunization Program.

The boy was also the first diphtheria patient recorded in Gia Lai and 24 people who’d come into close contact with him have been quarantined.

Dak Nong Province in the Central Highlands has recorded 16 cases of diphtheria in the latest outbreak, the country's highest to date, including the two previous deaths. Kom Tum Province in the Central Highlands has reported eight cases so far. Hundreds in the infected areas have been quarantined and are being vaccinated against the disease.

One patient in HCMC has recovered and been discharged.

Diphtheria, which can be prevented with vaccination, is an infection caused by the Corynebacterium diphtheria bacterium. It spreads through air and direct contact.

Symptoms include fever, sore throat, swallowing difficulty, and white patches in the throat that could block the airway. Complications include myocarditis, kidney problems, respiratory failure, inflammation of nerves, coma, and death.

Last year a seven-year-old girl in Dak Lak Province near Dak Nong succumbed to the disease. In 2017 and 2018 six people died in Kon Tum and Quang Nam provinces.

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