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On the verge of an epidemic? What is dangerous diphtheria and what you need to know about it

The outbreak of diphtheria in Transcarpathia alarmed the country – 15 people were hospitalized. Concern was also caused by the fact that hospitals were not adequately provided with the necessary drugs for so many patients. Therefore, is it worth waiting for an epidemic in other areas and how and is it possible to protect yourself and your loved ones from infection?

For several weeks, the headlines of Ukrainian publications have been full of news about cases of diagnosis of diphtheria. The first of these was the detection of a disease in a 5th year student of the medical faculty of Uzhgorod National University. This was announced during the briefing by and. about. Director of the Health Department of the Transcarpathian Regional State Administration Elizaveta Birov.

According to her, the guy went to the hospital on October 17, where during the examination, diphtheria bacteria, a non-toxic strain, were seeded on him. The patient complained of fever, sore throat, muscles. On the same day, the guy was hospitalized, and the next day, a panel of doctors confirmed his diagnosis.

A few days later, the situation in Uzhgorod was complicated by the sharp increase in the number of patients diagnosed with diphtheria and potential patients. After all, after the student’s hospitalization, other persons with whom he contacted (123 people) were examined. 44 of them were taken materials for laboratory research, which showed that 12 cultures of the pathogen were seeded, that is, another 12 people should be hospitalized. In the following days, 3 more students were hospitalized with symptoms of this disease.

Volodymyr Kurpita, Director General of the Health Center of Ukraine, qualified this outbreak of illness as a local emergency, because special anti-diphtheria serum should be administered to patients (2 ampoules for each patient), which the region did not have in sufficient quantities. In this regard, Transcarpathian doctors appealed to the Ministry of Health with a request to redistribute the serum from diphtheria available in other areas and provide them in Transcarpathia.

At a press briefing on the situation with the incidence of diphtheria, the head of the public health center noted that now the specialists of the epidemiological department of the public health center are in the Transcarpathian region and are helping to localize the outbreak. In Uzhgorod, a complex of anti-epidemic measures was introduced, including examinations and laboratory tests. According to Kurpita, Transcarpathia will redistribute 20 doses of antidiphtheria serum (the estimated need of the region) from other regions of Ukraine. It was noted that at the moment it is 20 bottles (it will be closed until the end of this week by redistribution from neighboring areas). In general, in Ukraine there are 192 bottles of serum, according to the Director of the Public Health Center, this is a sufficient amount.

It is worth noting that yesterday, during a briefing, Kurpita spoke about two officially confirmed cases of diphtheria in Ukraine in 2019 – in the Khmelnitsky and Lugansk regions. However, today the health care center reported another case of the disease: “The case of diphtheria in a 9-year-old guy in Kiev has been confirmed,” the report said.

Why diphtheria is not a “childhood illness”
The last diphtheria epidemic in Ukraine, which erupted in the 90s and claimed the lives of 696 people, was characterized by a number of features: a large number of sick adults (debunking the myth of “childhood illness”), a frequent absence of characteristic, classical changes in the oropharynx, which led to diagnostic errors , late hospitalization and, accordingly, to the late appointment of specific treatment, and as a result – to exacerbation of the disease and frequent deaths.

Therefore, today, given the low level of vaccination of the population, there is a need for a more detailed explanation of the disease itself, its causes and consequences.

According to the chief freelance infectious disease specialist of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine Olga Golubovskaya, the only source of infection is a person.

“The disease is transmitted by airborne droplets, less often through direct contact (for example, the skin form, which is widespread in some tropical countries); in countries with a temperate climate, including Ukraine, the seasonality of the disease is typical – autumn-winter, in hot there is no seasonality in countries, the disease occurs all year round. Diphtheria is less infectious than measles, out of 10 people in contact with an infected person, 1-2 can get sick, in other cases, the contact ends with carriage, including transient, “the professor notes in about the dangers of diphtheria at the site of the National Medical University named after Bogomolets.

Diphtheria is an acute infectious disease characterized by local fibrinous inflammation (mainly of the mucous membranes of the oropharynx) and symptoms of general intoxication with a primary lesion of the cardiovascular and nervous systems. Most often, diphtheria manifests itself in swelling of the throat mucosa, where a film forms that blocks the airways and can lead to death.

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