Diphtheria case con­firmed

'Ex­tinct dis­ease' af­fects 53-yearold Span­ish pa­tient

Costa Blanca News (North Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - By Saman­tha Kett [email protected]­news.es

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.

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