Gandhinagar: There have been six suspected diphtheria deaths in Gujarat — 5 in Dhanera and one in Deesa taluka — of Banaskantha district. State health officials are worried because the victims are in the 5-20 age group. A rapid response team has been sent to Banaskantha district to carry out a vaccination drive. The team will also identify suspected cases and carry out chemoprophylaxis (the administration of preventive medicines to those who have come into contact with patients). Since August, various districts and small towns have been reporting diphtheria cases. They include Kutch, Amreli, Ahmedabad, and Vadodara.
The death of a 10-year-old boy from Deesa has shaken health officials. The child had recuperated at Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad last week. He was discharged but died at his residence. “The boy died because the diphtheria toxin produced by the bacteria C.diphtheriae caused myocardial (heart) damage,” a senior health official said.
In line with the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP), all children below 1 year get three doses of Diphtheria-Pertussis-Tetanus (DPT) vaccine at 6, 10, and 14 weeks. This is followed by two booster doses between the ages of 1-2 years and 5-6 years.
“We are providing Azithromycin and vaccinating children,” the official said. He added that many families in Banaskantha are not aware of the disease or avoid vaccinating their babies. Other districts that have reported suspected cases are being investigated as well. Some 29 cases of suspected diphtheria have been reported between August 26 and September 29. “Every case is being revisited to assess the condition of the child, even if lab reports are negative,” an official said. “Special teams in Ahmedabad and Vadodara cities are active for detection of cases with high fever, sore throat, and other flu-like symptoms.”