Global Alert and Response (GAR)

Diphtheria in Afghanistan

29 August 2003

Disease Outbreak Reported

As of 9 August 2003, WHO reported 50 cases, including 3 deaths ( case fatality rate, 6%), during 12 June and 2 August 2003 in a resettlement camp for internally displaced persons in Kandahar. Preliminary epidemiological data indicate that 74% of the cases were aged 5 to 14. Samples received by the Central Laboratory in Kabul confirm C.diptheriae. Further laboratory investigations are ongoing in Islamabad, Pakistan.

A mass vaccination campaign targeting the entire population of the camp (c. 40,000) was launched on 2 August 2003. As of 7 August 2003, 7,544 individuals had received vaccine.

WHO, UNHCR, UNICEF, Médecins sans Frontières-Holland, International Committee of the Red Cross, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and Inter-SOS are assisting the Ministry of Health in the implementation of control activities and in the provision of drugs, antitoxin, and vaccine supplies as well as technical and logistic support. Ongoing activities include heightened surveillance , case and contact tracing.

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