A diphtheria outbreak has been ongoing in Venezuela since July 2016. According to the Venezuelan government, 2170 cases have been reported since the beginning of the outbreak through the first week of October 2018, including 287 deaths. Some 800 of these cases (and 167 of the fatalities) have been reported in 2018.
The outbreak was originally concentrated in the states of Anzoátegui, Bolívar, Delta Amacuro, Monagas, and Sucre, but has since spread to 21 of the country’s 23 states, plus the capital region, according to the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO).
Diphtheria is a highly contagious disease caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheria, which primarily infects the throat and upper airways and produces a toxin affecting other organs. The illness has an acute onset and the main characteristics are sore throat, low-grade fever, and swollen glands in the neck; the toxin may, in severe cases, cause myocarditis or peripheral neuropathy. The disease is spread through direct physical human contact or from breathing in the aerosolized secretions from coughs or sneezes of infected individuals.
Individuals considering travel to Venezuela are advised to confirm vaccinations are up to date and to keep abreast of the situation.
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