Short Note : Diphtheria

Diphtheria is an infectious disease that is caused by a bacterium (Corynebacterium diphtheria). The bacterium primarily infects the throat and upper airways to produce a toxin that affects other organs. The disease is usually spread between people by direct contact or through the air. It can spread by contaminated objects.

Treatment of Diptheria

  • A vaccine for diphtheria is effective for prevention and available in a number of formulations.
  • The vaccine is given in three or four doses, along with tetanus vaccine and pertussis vaccine. The DTP vaccination is during childhood.
  • The protection against diphtheria can be verified by measuring the antitoxin level in the blood and if needed, further doses of diphtheria-tetanus vaccine can be taken every ten years.
  • Diphtheria is also treated with the antibiotics erythromycin or benzylpenicillin.

Why is it in the news?

A 9-year old boy of Malliamman Durgham which is a remote settlement at Kadambur hills allegedly died from Diphtheria while on the way to a hospital in Chennai.

India has earned the unfortunate and dubious title of being the world leader in diphtheria cases due to a combination of inadequate immunization, patchy coverage of booster doses and the unavailability of accessible drugs.

What India is doing?

As per the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) in India, all children below the age of one year should get three doses of Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (DTP) vaccine. This is then followed by two booster doses between the ages of 1-2 years and 5-6 years.

However, the coverage for the first three doses and then the booster doses is inadequate in 80% of the country.

The difference between states with poor primary immunization and others is reflected clearly in each of India’s outbreaks. As per a WHO report, Bihar with its poor record of primary immunization sees 41% of its cases in children below the age of five while in Kerala, which has high rates of immunization, 74% of the cases were in children above the age of 10.


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