Examine the rising trends in Diphtheria cases in India as a concern for India’s public health.

Diphtheria is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheria. Diphtheria particularly affects children aged 1 to 5 years. Diphtheria is fatal in only 5-10% cases. As per the national health portal:

  • One type of diphtheria affects the throat and sometimes the tonsils.
  • Another type causes ulcers on the skin; these are more common in the tropics (places where all 12 months have mean temperatures of at least 18 °C).
Vaccination in India
  • Vaccination against Diphtheria was launched under the Expanded Programme on Immunisation in 1978.
  • The programme was converted to the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) in 1985.
  • Vaccination is now incorporated as a pentavalent vaccine, (containing vaccine against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus [DPT], Hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type B).
  • The coverage of diphtheria vaccine is 78.4% under UIP as per data from the National Family Health Survey 4
Rising Trend
  • India reported 2,365 diphtheria cases in 2015. This was a steep decline when compared to previous year.
  • But these numbers increased to 3,380, 5,293 and 8,788. in 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively.
  • Delhi witnessed a diphtheria outbreak in 2018.

This rising trends in the number of cases of diphtheria is a cause of concern. Hence the government has decided to commission a study on vaccine hesitancy and ways to deal with it.


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