On 21 February, a two-year-old child, who was not immunised, is suspected to have died from severe diphtheria in Johor Baru
In a media statement issued today, 23 February, the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH) announced the death of the unimmunised child.
"A death occurred in the Johor Baru district on 21 February of suspected diphtheria infection. The case involved a child, aged two years and one month," Health Ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said Saturday, 23 February.
According to the media statement by MOH, the child had never received any immunisations since birth. On 16 February, the child began to have fever, cough and swelling tonsils. Two days later on 18 February, he was taken to the hospital's Emergency Unit in poor condition and was admitted to the Pediatric Neurologic Treatment Unit for respiratory assistance and the treatment of diphtheria antitoxin.
"Unfortunately, the child could not be saved and died on 21 February 2019 due to severe diphtheria with multiorgan failure. Detection tests on throat samples showed the presence of Corynebacterium diphtheriae bacteria," Dr Noor Hisham said, adding that the Health Ministry was waiting for further laboratory results for confirmation.
In the statement, Dr Noor said the Ministry was taking steps to curb the spread of the infection by tracing active cases in sensitive areas, including providing immunisation and health education awareness
In this regard, Dr Noor Hisham said that MOH wishes to advise the public, especially parents to be alert to infectious diseases that can be prevented through immunisation for diseases such as diphtheria, measles, whooping cough and others.
"Make sure your child is immunised. Immunisation is an effective and safe way to prevent disease. The immunisation service can be obtained from government and private health clinics. Failure to provide immunisation to children not only exposes your child to infections but may also endanger other children," Dr Noor Hisham said, urging parents who had yet to immunise their children to do so at the nearest health facility.
While so far, only one confirmed diphtheria case has been recorded for 2019, there were 18 confirmed cases last year
According to Dr Noor Hisham, of the 18 cases in 2018, five resulted in death, with four of those victims not having received immunisation.
All diphtheria deaths for 2018 involve children under 10 years old, he noted.
Diphtheria is an infection caused by a bacteria named corynebacterium diphtheriae, which forms a layer in the throat
Beginning with a sore throat, diphtheria could lead to bacteremia and endocarditis complications, which could be fatal.