Diphtheria returns to Kerala; govt steps up drive

In the wake of the startling return of diphtheria, a bacterial infection eradicated from the state many years ago, Kerala Health Department has stepped up an intense anti-diphtheria drive in Malappuram district, where the disease has resurfaced.

Thiruvananthapuram: In the wake of the startling return of diphtheria, a bacterial infection eradicated from the state many years ago, Kerala Health Department has stepped up an intense anti-diphtheria drive in Malappuram district, where the disease has resurfaced.

The outbreak of diphtheria, which affects membranes of the throat and nose, has caused concern in the health sector as the disease can be prevented through immunization.

It had been eradicated completely from the state through vaccination and immunization programmes years ago.

But the death of Ameeruddin, a 12 year-old-boy from Kondotty in Malappuram on September 17 had confirmed the return of diphtheria in the state, health department officials said.

Health Minister V S Sivakumar said here today that the disease reappeared because of lack of immunization.

"Northern districts Malappuram and Kasaragod are lagging behind in immunization in the state. Unwillingness of parents had prevented health officials to administer vaccine to children there," he said.

He said it was unfortunate that the right of children to get immunized was denied due to superstition and false propaganda.

The minister also said the department would initiate intense awareness programmes to make people understand the need to get their children take preventive vaccines.

As part of the drive, the second phase of preventive vaccination programme would begin in Malappuram on October 1, he said.

Minister for Industries and IT P K Kunhalikutty would inaugurate the programme, which is aimed at vaccinating all children below two years of age, he said.

The reports of the return of diphtheria in Kerala, known for its high health indices and standard of living, has come as a shock to the state public health sector.

The Indian Medical Association had termed the boy's death as 'shocking' and 'public health disaster'.

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