[dropcap]N[/dropcap]orth Coast Public Health Unit has confirmed that there has only been one case of diphtheria reported in an adult patient in Northern NSW Local Health District in 2018.
Claims that this is the second case in Northern NSW this year are incorrect.
There have been no other cases of toxigenic diphtheria within this LHD since before 2001 (the period for which electronic records are available).
The patient who was diagnosed with diphtheria earlier this month is being treated with antibiotics in the community and all relevant contacts have been followed up in accordance with public health control guidelines.
It should be noted that the patient had a history of vaccination, and consequently did not suffer any of the potential severe effects of the infection. There is no evidence that low vaccination rates were associated with this person contracting the disease.
People can be infected or carry the bacteria that causes diphtheria and possibly show no symptoms at all.
Vaccination does not protect against infection with Diphtheria bacteria but protects against the severe effects that can be caused by toxins which can be produced by the bacteria.
Diphtheria is a very rare condition, notifiable to the local public health unit. It is most often spread in airborne droplets by coughing or sneezing and the bacteria is easily treated with antibiotics. Unvaccinated people who catch diphtheria may require a special antitoxin to combat the effects of the toxin.
Diphtheria vaccination is included on the standard immunisation schedule for children at six weeks, four and six months of age, with boosters at 18 months, four years and in Year Seven.
Symptoms of diphtheria usually begin two to five days after exposure, and include a sore throat, loss of appetite and mild fever. Within two to three days, a membrane forms over the throat and tonsils that can make it hard to swallow and breathe. The infection can also cause swelling in the lymph glands and tissues on both sides of the neck.
The infection can also cause inflammation of heart muscle and nerves, leading to death in five to 10 per cent of cases.
Patients concerned about symptoms should visit their General Practitioner or nearest emergency department.
NSW Health has more information about diphtheria on their website: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/Diphtheria.aspx