While you likely aren’t too surprised about the flu deaths and the cases of meningococcal disease, did you know that kids still get Hib, babies still get hepatitis B, and that there were three cases of human rabies and a case of diphtheria in the United States last year?
When Was the Last Case of Diphtheria?
That’s despite the fact that the diphtheria vaccine has been around for over 100 years, long before it was combined with the first whole cell pertussis vaccine and the tetanus vaccine to form the DPT vaccine.
A vaccine that helped control respiratory diphtheria, which could lead to the formation of a pseudomembrane in a child’s airway, giving diphtheria the nickname of the “strangling angel.”
The last big outbreaks of diphtheria in the United States occurred in the 1970s, although sporadic cases had continued since, albeit at lower and lower levels each year. Eventually, endemic respiratory diphtheria was declared eliminated in 2009.
Still, we know that there have been some recent cases of diphtheria in the United States.
In April of 2014, a teen from Montgomery County, Ohio developed diphtheria.
And again in April of 2018, someone in Oklahoma developed diphtheria.
Why do we care about a few isolated cases?
Because we know how quickly diphtheria can come back if we stop vaccinating our kids!
Just look at what is happening in many other countries that once had these diseases under good control:
- a 22-year-old unvaccinated women who died in Australia (2011)
- an unvaccinated 3-year-old who died in Belgium (2016)
- a family that became infected in South Africa in which at least one child died (August 2017)
- at least 7 cases of diphtheria in Ukraine (2018)
- an unvaccinated man in Australia who died (2018)
- a case in Canada (2018)
- 8 cases and 3 deaths in Columbia (2018)
More on the Last Case of Diphtheria
- VAXOPEDIA – Eradicated Diseases
- VAXOPEDIA – Diphtheria in Canada
- VAXOPEDIA – Grave Reminders of Life Before Vaccines
- VAXOPEDIA – When Was the Last Time Someone Died from Being Bitten by a Rabid Dog in the United States?
- VAXOPEDIA – When Was the Last Measles Death in the United States?
- VAXOPEDIA – Milestones Towards the Eradication of Polio
- VAXOPEDIA – Should I Be Worried That My Kids Didn’t Get the Smallpox Vaccine?
- DOH: Increase in diphtheria cases seen in Bicol, Davao regions, Soccksargen, ARMM
- Jakarta to vaccinate 1.9 million children against diphtheria outbreak
- AAP – Diphtheria: A largely forgotten disease because of a vaccine
- AAP – 14 Diseases You Almost Forgot About Thanks to Vaccines
- CDC – What Would Happen If We Stopped Vaccinations
- Ask the Experts about DTP
- 2014 Annual Summary of Infectious Diseases Ohio
- Selected Reportable Diseases, 2018 Oklahoma
- MMWR – Notes from the Field: Respiratory Diphtheria-Like Illness Caused by Toxigenic Corynebacterium ulcerans — Idaho, 2010
- MMWR – Fatal Respiratory Diphtheria in a U.S. Traveler to Haiti — Pennsylvania, 2003
- Study – Respiratory diphtheria in the United States, 1980 through 1995.
- MMWR – Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Fatal Diphtheria — Wisconsin
- Study – Diphtheria in the United States, 1971-81.
- MMWR – Diphtheria Epidemic — New Independent States of the Former Soviet Union, 1990-1994
- MMWR – Diphtheria Outbreak — Russian Federation, 1990-1993