Diphtheria case in Dénia confirmed
Fifth diagnosis in country since 2015 of 'extinct disease' affects Spaniard, 53, who is 'responding well to treatment'
By Samantha Kett A CASE of diphtheria has been diagnosed at Dénia hospital – only the fifth in three years in Spain, where the highlycontagious condition was thought to have been extinct since 1986.
The patient, 53, had not travelled to any highrisk 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 homecaught 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 antitoxins.
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 persontoperson 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 sixyearold 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. Hedge wars have reduced drastically in Dénia since the local police started up an informal mediation service where neighbours are encouraged to talk to, rather than denounce each other. In the last three months, specialist resident conflict officers have intervened in 15 disputes, all of which have been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties. The mediating officer acts as a 'neutral referee' and encourages each side of the argument to 'talk and listen', says Juan Antonio Tous, one of the team. He says the majority of neighbour disputes relate to noise, use of public or shared spaces, failure to keep plots or gardens tidy and clean, boundary disagreements, and young people or children having rows. Benissa council is once again offering tax credits to some residents. For large families who live in homes up to the value of €120,000, a 50% discount on IBI tax is available. This will be renewed every two years. For those aged over 65 and living on a low income, rubbish collection tax will be reduced by 90%. In relation to vehicle tax on electric and hybrid vehicles, those owning vehicles with low pollution rates will also benefit. Electric cars will be eligible for a 75% discount, and hybrid vehicles entitled to a 25% discount. The car tax incentive is in order promote the use of ecofriendly vehicles. The deadline to apply for the reduction is December 28, and should be made at the Suma office in Benissa.