The World Health Organization (WHO) warns of rapidly spreading cases of Diphtheria in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, where Rohingya refugees from Myanmar have taken shelter.
Already, six have died and more than 110 suspected cases have been linked to the disease by health partners in-country. A mix of low vaccination coverage and cramped living conditions rendered problematic by poor water access, sanitation, and health services, are causing a sort of breeding ground there, according to Navaratnasamy Paranietharan, the WHO representative to Bangladesh. Cholera, measles, and rubella could likewise follow if that situation is not addressed.
“This is why we have protected more than 700,000 people with the oral cholera vaccine, as well as more than 350,000 children with measles-rubella vaccine in a campaign that ended yesterday,” Paranietharan said.
More than 624,000 people have poured into the country since August, due to the crisis in neighboring Myanmar. In an effort to stop the spread of disease among the sudden influx of people, WHO, UNICEF, the Bangladesh Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and other partners are engaging in patient diagnosis and treatment, preparing vaccination campaigns for the young and vulnerable, and securing medicinal supplies.
“We are working with partners to ensure that clinical guidance is available to health workers and that there are enough beds and medicines for those who get sick,” Paranietharan said. “But the only way to control this outbreak is to protect people, particularly children, through vaccination.”
Thus far, the WHO has gathered 1,000 vials of diphtheria antitoxins. They are expected to arrive in Bangladesh soon, to be combined with uses of antibiotics.