UPDATE: Second diphtheria case reported in NSW

For the first time in a century, a case of diphtheria of the throat was reported in NSW yesterday, July 2.

The North Coast Public Health Unit confirmed the case in a two-year-old child in the Tweed LGA in Northern NSW.

The child, who was not vaccinated against diphtheria, is being cared for in an Intensive Care Unit at a Queensland hospital and has received diphtheria antitoxin, antibiotics and respiratory support.

A second case of diphtheria of the throat, in a six year old child in Northern NSW was reported today, Sunday July 3.

This child is a close family contact of the first case announced. The child, who was not vaccinated against diphtheria, is currently being cared for at a Northern NSW Local Health District hospital, where they were admitted as a precaution.

The child’s family and close contacts have received post exposure prophylaxis, which can include antibiotics and immunisation, to reduce the risk of transmission.

North Coast Public Health director Dr Paul Douglas said there was no ongoing risk to the wider community but families should be alert and review the immunisation status of their children on the Australian Immunisation Register or with their medical provider to ensure they are up to date with all vaccinations.

“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 Douglas said.

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

In Australia, children are vaccinated at six weeks, four months, six months, 18 months, four years, and at the beginning of high school.

While no other cases of diphtheria of the throat have been reported in NSW this century, on rare occasions other less serious cases of diphtheria have been reported, mainly involving the skin.

Diphtheria is a contagious, vaccine-preventable disease that is spread through coughing and sneezing and can sometimes spread through contact with surfaces contaminated with the bacteria.

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