Deadly infectious Diphtheria is a vaccine preventable disease that has been wiped off from most parts of the country but its recent emergence in Pakistan has raised serious question mark on efficacy of our immunisation programme.
At least 39 children and teenagers have so far died across Pakistan due to Diphtheria while reportedly dozens of new cases are also being reported every week from four provinces as well as Azad Kashmir.
According to a report, diphtheria cases are now being reported as a matter of routine in Karachi and Hyderabad, but due to lack of experience and knowledge of general practitioners, these cases were being referred to specialised hospitals quite late, when the disease has progressed to an incurable stage.
This situation should raise alarm bells in quarters concerned as according to experts, it is a serious infection caused by strains of bacteria called ‘Corynebacterium diphtheria that make toxins in a person’s body.
It can lead to breathing, heart rhythm problems, and even death. The appearance of this disease really indicates loopholes and shortcomings in our ongoing immunisation which needs to be reviewed and addressed ensuring that vaccines reach every child so that they could be well protected from such serious and life threatening ailments.
Most countries have eliminated diphtheria by giving booster doses of the DPT vaccine to children in the later stage of their childhood, but no booster doses are administered in our country that is why the disease is affecting children with weak immunity.
We therefore will suggest the ministry of national health services to add this booster vaccine in EPI programme.
The World Health Organisation and UNICEF have expressed readiness to provide anti-diphtheria serum to deal with current situation.
\We should engage with these world bodies to ensure that sufficient doses remain available in the country to avoid more cases and deaths due to the infection.