Annual cases of diphtheria in Europe quadrupled in 2022 and this year they are already higher than the average for previous years

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Diphtheria is increasing in Europe. 224 cases have been reported in 2022 and 57 in 2023 (as of August 11), giving a total of 281 people diagnosed and four deathsaccording to him European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC). The average number of cases from 2017 to 2021 was 55 per year, so that during 2022 the figure quadrupled, and in 2023 the average has already been exceeded. The report indicates that the number of cases appears to be lower in 2023 than in the second part of 2022.

He Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that diphtheria is a serious infection caused by strains of bacteria called Corynebacterium diphtheriae. These produce a toxin, which can affect the mucous membranes of the nose and throat, even causing death. Is very rare in developed countries thanks to widespread vaccination against the disease. However, many of the countries with limited medical care continue to experience high rates of diphtheria.

The 281 cases were reported by Germany (206), Belgium (37), Czechia (10), Slovakia (9), the Netherlands (9), Sweden (5), Latvia (3), Norway (1) and Spain (1). The two deaths reported in 2023 occurred in Belgium and Latvia, and the two in 2022 in Germany and Slovakia. In Spain, no case was reported since 2015.

ECDC data indicated that the majority of cases in 2022 were diagnosed in immigrant-related facilities, and that subsequent transmission was documented in some cases there as well. ECDC is not aware of any evidence indicating outbreaks in the broader EU population.

One of the possible reasons for this increase may be the entry of people who are not sufficiently vaccinated, due to the interruption of their immunization program as consequence of war or civil unrest. Disease such as diphtheria is particularly prone to spread in crowded areas and settings such as refugee centers, so vaccination should be offered as quickly as possible, the report says.

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