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Diphtheria in Pakistan

22 Nov 2016

On the 18 November 2016 the media reported a significant increase in the number of diphtheria cases in the South and North Waziristan agencies (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) of Pakistan.

The unstable security situation in Waziristan has prevented routine childhood immunisations being carried out for many years and this outbreak is thought to have spread from unvaccinated children living in internally displaced people camps in the area. Approximately 30 deaths in children have been linked to this outbreak.

A senior official of the Expanded Programme on Immunization advised that steps are being taken to control the situation, however, this is challenging due to the unstable security situation and movement of families.

Advice to Travellers

A combination vaccine called Revaxis is available to protect adults against diphtheria, tetanus and polio. Children normally receive these vaccinations as part of the national schedule. Travellers should ensure that they have had a primary course of vaccine and receive a booster every 10 years if they are travelling to an area where diphtheria, tetanus or polio are considered high risk.