Cape Town – A ten-year-old girl has died and three family members infected by the highly contagious bacterial disease diphtheria, the Western Cape Health department said on Monday.
The girl tested positive for diphtheria on August 3 and passed away the following day “due to the severity of the disease,” Western Cape Health spokesperson Mark Van der Heever said in a statement.
Two other siblings and the girl’s mother tested positive for the disease after the department followed up with close relatives in an effort to contain the disease.
They have been provided with post exposure medication and vaccines, Van der Heever said.
“More than 600 individuals have been vaccinated in this specific community,” he said.
Also read: Routine immunisation schedule
Diphtheria is a contagious and potentially life-threatening bacterial disease. The actual disease is caused when the bacteria releases a toxin into a person's body that can harm or destroy human body tissues and organs.
The toxin is also absorbed and can produce a variety of systemic effects involving the kidneys, heart and the nervous system causing significant damage.
Diphtheria affects people of all ages, but most often it strikes children who have not been vaccinated. It spreads through coughing or sneezing.
According to the World Health Organisation, 30 000 cases of diphtheria and 3000 deaths were reported worldwide in 2000, down from nearly 100 000 infections in 1980.