Northern NSW Toddler Diagnosed With Century-First Diphtheria Case

Potentially deadly


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For the first time in a century, New South Wales has reported its first case of diphtheria.

The North Coast Public Health Unit (NCPHU) confirmed on Saturday that a two-year-old child is in intensive care after contracting diphtheria of the throat in northern NSW.

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Health authorities said the toddler, who was not vaccinated against diphtheria, is currently in an intensive care unit in Queensland.

The infected child is being treated with antibiotics, respiratory support and a diphtheria antitoxin, while the toddler’s family and close contacts have received antibiotics or immunisation to reduce the risk of further transmission.

NSW Health cites that diphtheria is a contagious and potentially deadly bacterial infection, which affects the throat and tonsils in its most severe form, resulting in a greyish-white membrane forming that can make it hard to swallow and breathe.

“Diphtheria is very rare in Australia due to our longstanding childhood immunisation program. However, the disease has very serious outcomes and can be fatal,Dr Paul Douglas, director of North Coast Public Health, told IndyNR

“The diphtheria vaccination is free and readily available from your GP for everyone from six weeks of age.”

There is no ongoing risk to the broader community, but families should be alert and review their children’s immunisation status, Dr Douglas said.

In Australia, diphtheria vaccines are recommended at the ages of two, four, six and 18 months, with booster shots at four and 15 years.

It is also recommended that adults get the combined diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine every 10 years and during pregnancy.

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3 July 2022

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