Diphtheria case confirmed
'Extinct disease' affects 53-yearold Spanish patient
A CASE of diphtheria has been diagnosed at Dénia hospital – only the fifth in three years in Spain, where the highly-contagious condition was thought to have been extinct since 1986.
The patient, 53, had not travelled to any high-risk country in many years, and had been vaccinated in early childhood and again before his military service.
But the Spaniard did not have the recommended boosters at age 40, which are also strongly advised again at age 65.
He checked into A&E a fortnight ago with what appeared to be tonsilitis and laryngitis, fever, skin rash, serious breathing difficulties, a reduced heartbeat caused by a swelling of the heart muscle – known as myocarditis – and a general feeling of being unwell.
Immediately suspecting diphtheria, medics isolated him and admitted him to intensive care, sending bacteria samples to Spain's top infectious and contagious diseases hospital.
The Carlos III in Madrid – where Spain's only home-caught ebola case, in one of its nurses, was successfully treated – confirmed the Marina Alta man had diphtheria.
He has been responding well to antibiotics in the last fortnight, and has not needed any anti-toxins.
Diphtheria, which was wiped out much earlier in the UK thanks to a routine vaccine introduced in 1942, is exceptionally contagious as well as infectious, meaning it is airborne as well as transmitted via person-to-person contact.
It has only caused four deaths in the UK in 20 years, and five cases – including the Dénia man – in Spain in three years.
The first known case in Spain since 1986 was a six-yearold boy from Olot, in Cataluña, who died in 2015.
His parents opposed vaccinations and traditional medicine, meaning he had never been inoculated against this or any other viral diseases.