GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in a recent epidemiological alert to public health agencies in the Americas, gave an update with respect to diphtheria in the Americas.
PAHO reiterates to Member States the recommendation to continue their efforts to ensure vaccination coverage of over 95 per cent with the primary series of three doses and three booster doses. This vaccination series will provide protection throughout adolescence and adulthood (up to 39 years and possibly beyond).
In order for the country to maintain a high vaccination coverage, the Collective Prevention Services (CPS) is inviting parents and guardians to bring their child (ren) to the free Vaccination Community Outreach that will be taking place this Saturday, May 25. During this activity, the child (ren’s) vaccination status can be checked. Parents and guardians must bring along the child (ren’s) vaccination record/book.
The outreach is scheduled for Saturday, May 25 from 9.00am to 3.00pm. The outreach will take place at the Vineyard Office Park at W.G. Buncamper road #33, in Philipsburg.
Diphtheria is an infection caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae. Diphtheria causes a thick covering in the back of the throat. It can lead to difficulty breathing, heart failure, paralysis, and even death. Vaccines are recommended for infants, children, teens and adults to prevent diphtheria.
In 2018, three countries in the Region of the Americas – Colombia, Haiti, and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela – reported confirmed diphtheria cases. In 2019, Haiti and Venezuela reported confirmed cases.
CPS, a department of the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour, has taken note of the PAHO alert which calls for continued efforts to maintain high vaccination coverage, and with the community’s assistance, this can be accomplished.
PAHO/World Health Organization (WHO) stresses that the populations at greatest risk are unvaccinated children under five (5) years of age, schoolchildren, healthcare workers, military service personnel, prisoner community, and persons who, due to the nature of their occupation, are in contact with a large number of persons on a daily basis.
PAHO advice for travelers, “Although travelers do not have a special risk of diphtheria infection, it is recommended that national authorities remind travelers going to areas with diphtheria outbreaks to be properly vaccinated in accordance with the national vaccination scheme established in each country prior to travel. If more than five years have passed since their last dose, a booster dose is recommended.”
PAHO/WHO recommends Member States strengthen their surveillance system for the early detection of suspected cases in order to initiate the timely treatment of cases and follow-up of contacts, and ensuring the supply of diphtheria antitoxin. Vaccination is key to prevent cases and outbreaks, and adequate clinical management reduces complications and mortality.
CPS surveillance system has been in the alert phase already for months for any suspected cases from the sub-Region and any country from Europe or the Americas where there is an outbreak of measles.
Now Diphtheria has been added to the list to be monitored and to report to the respective public health authorities; to secure timely intervention to mitigate possible increase of cases, to control, prevent the spread and to register relevant data.
Immunization averts an estimated two-three million deaths every year, protecting children from diphtheria, measles, pertussis (better known as whooping cough), pneumonia, polio, rotavirus diarrhea, rubella, tetanus and others.
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