Despite a successful vaccination program that helped wipe out diphtheria in Australia, two cases of the disease have been diagnosed in Queensland last week.
Queensland Health confirmed to the Sunshine Coast Daily that a case of non-contagious diphtheria was diagnosed on the Sunshine Coast, while a contagious one was diagnosed in Brisbane where people in contact with the woman involved are being notified.
“All he had at the start was a sore throat…..But it got so bad the doctor gave him a jab of penicillin before it was officially diagnosed. His throat had swollen up,” the father of the Sunshine Coast man who contracted the disease said.
Meanwhile, the Queensland Health spokesman said that the Metro North Public Health Unit became aware “ªon Friday of a woman from Brisbane “who has a wound which is infected with the type of bacteria which causes diphtheria”. He said that they already contacted the people who may have been exposed to ensure they were protected. “People are protected by vaccination but people who have had a lot of exposure may need antibiotics or a booster vaccination,” the spokesman said.
The Federal Government’s website defined diphtheria as a “potentially life-threatening bacterial disease that usually affects the upper respiratory tract, but can also infect the skin”. Symptoms are varied depending on the type of infection but can include sore throat, fever, swelling of lymph nodes and soft tissues of the sides of the neck (causing a “bull neck”), hoarseness, stridor, breathing difficulties and also ulcers on the skin.
“In the early 1900s, diphtheria caused more deaths in Australia than any other infectious disease,” the health website reads. “Increasing use of vaccines has led to its virtual disappearance. No vaccinated person has died from diphtheria in Australia in the last 20 years,” the website added.
With the two additional cases, the total number of cases diagnosed in Queensland rose to six in 2016, more than double in the previous years.