As diphtheria cases rise, India struggles to get adequate anti-toxin
While diphtheria cases are being reported in various parts of the country, India still lacks adequate anti-toxin for the deadly disease.
According the sources, once 50 vials of anti-toxin for diphtheria costing around Rs. 65,000 are moved from Delhi to Kerala where two diphtheria deaths were reported last week, the stock of the anti-toxin stored in the national capital will be zero.
This being the case, the nation will have to depend on other countries to import anti-toxin on an urgent basis.
Apart from anti-toxin, the country is also lacking from diphtheria and tetanus toxoids (DT) vaccine, the sources said.
The lack of the adequate medicines and anti-toxins came to the limelight, after the Kerala state health authorities decided to go for a 100 percent immunization drive in the northern district of Malappuram, where an unvaccinated 15-year-old boy died of diphtheria on 18 June.
Five diphtheria cases were reported in the same district last year, in which two died. According to the district health authorities, there are 1.72 lakh children unvaccinated in the 7-15 age group in Malappuram.
To curb the menace of the deadly decease, the state health department has also decided to vaccinate 1, 32,000 children in the district, their relatives, doctors who diagnosed them, and other health activists, as well.
However, according to data, there is only 50,000 DT vaccine in the state which will not suffice for all the patients.
A NaradaNews report which had highlighted the issue caught the attention of the state health minister K.K. Shailaja. The minister stated that the government will act quickly to solve the issue and will make the arrangement to bring all medicines and anti-toxin required, from abroad.
Earlier, the production of anti-toxin for diphtheria was stopped long back in the country, as the health department arrived at a conclusion that the nation no more needs immunization. However, after the diphtheria cases started surfacing, the country now will have to start importing the anti-toxin from other countries very soon.
According to the experts, one diphtheria-affected patient cannot survive for long days without anti-toxin, even with the help of ventilator and he or she has to consume ideally 10 vials of anti-toxins throughout the period of illness. Considering this, the country now have only meagre doses of the vital anti-toxin that will suffice only for 10 patients.
After a break of an year, diphtheria cases were reported again in the country first at Malappuram district of Kerala.
The district had reported 11 cases of diphtheria in 2013.
These weeks, two deaths were reported while no case was reported last year.
According to some medical officers, the current outbreak in Malapuram occurred due to lack of awareness among certain sections in the district regarding the immunization.
Dr Ummer Farook, Malappuram district medical officer said the recent diphtheria death was reported in a residential Muslim institution. According the sources, most of the students in the same institution have not been vaccinated.
Dr Farook said that there is a section of people in the district who discourage taking vaccination. According to the district sources, some naturopathy and homeopathy doctors in the district have also a major role in encouraging people to stay away from vaccination.
“A section of society considers vaccination as an American agenda. They fall into the trap of anti-vaccination campaigners. However, due to consistent effort in recent years, the district has achieved 90 per cent vaccination in the category of under-five children,” the DMO added.