Dec 13, 2017, 12:23 PM
News Code: 82762111
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Diphtheria spread reemerging in Yemen: MSF

Tehran, Dec 13, IRNA - Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is responding to a suspected outbreak of diphtheria in Yemen, where the disease has reemerged as the country's health system is weakened by ongoing Saudi-led military aggression and a blockade on essential goods.

Half of the suspected cases are children between the ages of 5 and 14, and nearly 95 percent of the deaths are children under 15. Most of Yemen's suspected diphtheria cases are in Ibb governorate, according to doctorswithoutborders.org.

Diphtheria is a contagious and potentially fatal bacterial infection characterized by a thick grey membrane at the back of the throat or nose, a sore throat and fever. It can be prevented through vaccination, but it can be challenging to treat-in part because it is often unfamiliar to health workers.

Before this year, the last diphtheria case in Yemen was recorded in 1992, and the last outbreak was in 1982. At the same time, the conflict and blockade are making it difficult for patients to reach health facilities, and for humanitarian organizations to bring specialized staff and supplies where they are most needed, MSF said.

'The outbreak in Yemen is referred to as a 'suspected' diphtheria outbreak because confirmation requires having a sample validated by a laboratory, and it has not been possible to perform these tests in Yemen. The Yemeni health system has also struggled to respond to a massive cholera outbreak this year, which has declined but is not yet over. The response to diphtheria requires more specialized treatment than what has been available in Yemen until recently, as well as efforts to prevent its spread.'

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 318 suspected cases of diphtheria and 28 deaths have been reported from mid-August to early December in 15 of Yemen's 20 governorates.

MSF said that, together with the WHO, it is acquiring most of the antitoxin that is still available worldwide, and ordering more antibiotics. MSF has also put together a rapid response team to survey and identify suspected cases in communities, and provide prophylaxis to those in contact with a diphtheria patient.

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