The World Health Organisation has warned of the rapid spread of diphtheria in Cox’s Bazar, a densely populated refugee camp in Bangladesh for Rohingya refugees
The World Health Organisation has warned of the rapid spread of diphtheria in Cox’s Bazar, a densely populated refugee camp in Bangladesh for Rohingya refugees.
The International Federation of the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontieres have clinically diagnosed over 110 cases so far, of which six have resulted in fatalities.
WHO is working with UNICEF, the Bangladesh Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and other health partners to contain the spread of the highly infectious respiratory disease through prevention procedures and treatment.
Over 700,000 people have been vaccinated against cholera, 350,000 have received vaccines against measles and rubella, and the same will now have to be done for diphtheria.
Training for vaccinators has already begun for a campaign to target children aged under 6 years with pentavalent and pneumococcal vaccines, and preparations for patient diagnosis and treatment and adequate medicine supplies are also underway.
WHO has procured 1,000 diphtheria antitoxins, which when combined with antibiotics can treat those infected by neutralising toxins produced by the bacteria, to be distributed on arrival on December 9, 2017.
Over 624,000 people have fled the violence in Myanmar since August 2017 and have settled in densely populated temporary camps without adequate access to clean water, sanitation or health services.
The numbers are expected to continue rising and put additional strain on already thinly-stretched resources.
WHO’s representative in Bangladesh, Dr Navaratnasamy Paranietharan, said: “These cases could be just the tip of the iceberg.
“This is an extremely vulnerable population with low vaccination coverage, living in conditions that could be a breeding ground for infectious diseases like cholera, measles, rubella, and diphtheria.
“We are working with partners to ensure that clinical guidance is available to health workers, and that there are enough beds and medicines for those who get sick.
“But the only way to control this outbreak is to protect people, particularly children, through vaccination.”
Read More: The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is working with Bangladeshi authorities to urgently investigate the existence of high levels of E.coli in water drawn from wells in the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar