Vaccination sole prevention against Diphtheria: Director EPI

PESHAWAR Director Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Dr. Muhammad Arif Khan on Wednesday said that Diphtheria is a life-threatening disease characterized by swelling in throat. In a statement issued here, he emphasized that timely vaccination is the most cost effective way to prevent Diphtheria and other Vaccine preventable disease outbreaks in the community. In the current year, 259 Diphtheria suspected cases have been reported from most districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Highest burden of disease lies in the group of 7-15 years whereas it has affected senior age citizens as well. Major burden of disease lies in Peshawar, Kohat, Charsadda, Khyber, Bannu, Mardan, Nowshera, Karak, DI Khan, Malakand, Dir Upper, Batgram, Swabi, Mansehra, South Waziristan, Shangla, Lakki Marwat, Tank, Buner, Kurram Lower, Kohistan Lower, Chitral, Bajaur, Tor Ghar, Swat, Mohmand, Hangu, and Dir Lower. Dr. Muhammad Arif Khan explained that Diphtheria is a potentially life-threatening infectious disease cau sed by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheria. It primarily affects the throat and upper respiratory tract but can also lead to systemic complications. Diphtheria is known for the formation of a grayish-white membrane in the throat, which can cause difficulty in breathing and swallowing. The disease is highly contagious and can spread from person to person through respiratory droplets or by touching contaminated objects. Diphtheria can lead to serious health problems, especially in children and vaccinated individuals. If left untreated, the toxins produced by the bacteria can cause damage to vital organs, including the heart, lungs, liver, and nerves, which can result in severe complications and even death. The Director of EPI underscored the importance of pivotal role of pediatricians in the battle against Diphtheria. He reiterated the necessity of isolating Diphtheria patients in hospitals to prevent the spread of infection to others. He urged the parents to seek immediate medical attention from pedia tricians if their children exhibit signs of throat swelling or difficulty in swallowing for timely management and preventing further outbreaks. In response to suspected cases of Diphtheria in children under five years of age, the district EPI teams act swiftly by vaccinating all children in affected areas and union councils. In the complicated stage of Diphtheria, patients are left with limited treatment options, including the rare and costly Anti Diphtheria Serum (ADS). Dr. Arif Khan has shared that acquisition of ADS is always a tedious process for EPI. Appeals have been made to supportive health organizations and other provinces to assist in procuring this precious resource, as it remains both expensive and scarce. He expressed with great concern that most suspected cases in children under five years of age arise due to parental refusal to vaccinate their children. Dr. Muhammad Arif Khan implored parents and caregivers who have not yet vaccinated their children to make their way to the nearest vaccinat ion centers without delay. Timely vaccination is a simple yet profoundly effective measure that can significantly contribute to saving children's lives and containing the spread of this deadly disease. Dr. Shoukat Ali, Director General Health Services Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, echoes the urgency of completing the vaccination course for children, emphasizing the financial and psychological toll that Diphtheria can take on families when vaccination is refused. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health Department and EPI teams remain committed to assisting parents in shielding their children from the perils of Diphtheria through timely vaccination.

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