Five children died after contracting diphtheria in Burma’s eastern Shan State. Dr Hla Htay Min, head of Kengtung Public Hospital, told SHAN that 36 children received medical treatment for diphtheria since the end of July.
Hla Htay Min said children who haven’t been vaccinated are susceptible of contracting the disease. “Here, it has infected children over the age of 10. Five children have died. But if they were vaccinated, they would have been fine.”
Diphtheria is caused by a pathogenic bacteria called corynebacterium diphtheriae and can make breathing difficult, cause heart failure, paralysis or fatalities. Typically, children under five-years-old and adults over sixty are at greater risk of getting the infection.
“Like COVID-19, infected people shouldn’t be in crowded areas,” said Dr Hla Htay Min. They have to wear a face mask and wash their hands after touching anything.”
Patients with diphtheria from Tachilek, Tarlay, Mong Hsat, Mong Hkat, and Mong Hpyet townships are receiving treatment in the hospital in Kengtung.
In southern Shan State, there haven’t been any outbreaks of diphtheria this year, said Dr Zawana, deputy in charge of Contagious Disease Department for Shan State.
Health professionals recommend children get the vaccine for diphtheria when they are young. Unfortunately, in remote areas of Shan State, parents may not be knowledgeable about preventive medicine.
Diphtheria is common in Asia, the South Pacific, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Since 2016, outbreaks of respiratory diphtheria outbreaks have occurred in Burma, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, Venezuela, Haiti, South Africa and Yemen.