TN takes precautionary measures to detect, monitor diphtheria cases

Chennai: With diphtheria cases being detected in neighbouring States, the Department of Public Health (DPH) and Preventive Medicine in Tamilnadu has taken precautionary measures and instructed all paediatricians, ENT surgeons, general practitioners and obstetricians to closely monitor cases that come with conditions like fever and sore throat as these could be possible symptoms of diphtheria.

DPH Director, Dr K Kolandaiswamy, said, “We have changed to Td (tetanus diphtheria) vaccine and are focusing on school immunisation. For class 1 students, DTP and for class 5 and 10, and pregnant mothers Td vaccines are being given.”

According to him, sporadic cases have been detected in Sathyamangalam, and he stated that there has not been any break out in Tamilnadu so far.

Around 10 patients from Sathyamangalam have been identified with the symptoms. Data shows that at least 50 people have been admitted to the Coimbatore Medical College and Hospital. In July, two children from Erode died due to the fever.

Asked about the sudden occurrence, Dr Kolandaiswamy said, “We have identified that the immunisation is not being regularly done in private schools in Tamilnadu. The government conducts immunisation drive in the institutions that come under its purview.”

Following the huge diphtheria breakout in Kerala in 2015, the department analysed the proportion and found that there has been a lapse in vaccinating students belonging to private institutions. Since then, the government has been including private counterparts also in the drive.

The Director further stated that DPH has trained doctors and nurses to identify a clinical case of diphtheria.
At the Institute of Child Health (ICH), Director, Dr Jayachandran, stated that the hospital treated 12 clinically suspected diphtheria cases, among which four were confirmed.

“At present, two cases showing the symptoms have been admitted to the Intermediate Care Unit (IMCU) and one in Vaccine Preventable Diseases (VPD) Ward are being treated,” he added.

It may be noted that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare shifted to Td vaccine from Tt recently based on World Health Organization recommendation. The Ministry made the decision after analysing the impact of the Td vaccine in other countries.

According to a press release, “Diphtheria epidemics in eastern Europe and South America revealed that immunity to diphtheria subsides following the primary series of DTP infant immunization. After experiencing outbreaks, these regions changed to Td vaccine for women of reproductive age, and provided Td booster doses for older children and adolescents. This strategy resulted in marked decrease of diphtheria cases in eastern Europe and South America. It is now well-established that immunity to diphtheria subsides following the primary series of DTP infant immunization and that booster doses of diphtheria toxoid containing vaccines are needed for continued protection.”

* Diphtheria is an infection caused by Corynebacterium diphtheria and is disseminated when an infected person coughs or sneezes or the bacteria enters through open wounds.

* A few of the signs include body weakness, sore throat, fever and swollen glands in neck.

* These may complicate into blocked airway and paralysis, and vital organs like heart, nerves, lungs and kidneys may get affected due to toxins.

Vaccines are available at all government hospitals for free of cost.

Bhavani Prabhakar