Unvaccinated child dies from 'diphtheria'

9 May 2008
The Telegraph

A child has died from suspected diphtheria ヨ the first fatality from the rare infection in Britain for 14 years, health chiefs disclosed yesterday.

The Health Protection Agency said diphtheria, which attacks the breathing system, was the "most likely" explanation for the death in London.

The child had not been vaccinated.

Family members and others who have been in close contact with the child, who has not been named, have been traced and are receiving precautionary treatment and booster vaccinations where necessary.

It is the first death caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae in Britain since 1994 when a 14-year-old boy, who became infected in Pakistan, died here. The last non-fatal case of the respiratory infection was in 1997.

The condition is very rare in Britain as most children are immunised against it by a routine, three-dose immunisation given at age two, three and four months. Booster injections are then given before school starting age and then again between the ages of 16 and 18.

Prof Peter Borriello, of the HPA, said: "This child had not been immunised. We have taken action to prevent the infection spreading to others."

The HPA refused to comment on whether the child was born in Britain or overseas. It also refused to disclose the child's sex or age.

Symptoms of diphtheria include a sore throat, fever and swollen lymph glands in the neck.


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