Immunization launched to prevent spread of diphtheria

Jakarta - The Ministry of Health is launching a simultaneous immunization program or "outbreak response immunization (ORI)" in three provinces in response to the emergence of diphtheria cases in some regions.

The immunization program was carried out in three provinces of Jakarta, West Java, and Banten. The program was started on Monday (Dec 11)

Director of Surveillance and Quarantine of the Ministry of Health, Jane Soepardi, said that the effort was taken to prevent the spread of diphtheria. The selection of the three provinces is based on the consideration that the cases of diphtheria and population density in these three provinces are quite high.

Besides immunization in schools, residents can get free vaccinations through puskesmas public healthcare centers. There are a number of cases of diphtheria reported in several other regions, such as in Aceh, Central Java, and East Java.

The Health Service of Aceh has recorded a total of 93 cases of diphtheria in the province since early this year.

"Up to Dec 2017, we have recorded 93 cases of diphtheria in Aceh, of which four of them died. The four who died were from the districts of East Aceh, North Aceh, Pidie Jaya, and Bireuen," Head of Disease Prevention and Control Affairs of Aceh?s Health Service, Abdul Fatah, stated in Aceh on Tuesday.

Two other patients were found in Batang district, Central Java, and three in Situbondo District in East Java.

With regard to the emergence of diphtheria cases, the government has ensured the availability of vaccines for the immunization program.

Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Culture Puan Maharani stated that the government has confirmed the availability of vaccines as an effort to anticipate the spread of diphtheria cases.

"In this case, the Ministry of Health has made anticipatory efforts. We also synergize and cooperate with the local governments, such as the mayors, the district heads, or the governors, to ensure the availability of adequate vaccines throughout Indonesia," Maharani noted in Klaten District, Central Java, on Tuesday.

If one area is already exposed to diphtheria outbreak, then the patient must be treated immediately in the hospital, while other citizens should be encouraged to immediately go to the health centers as a precautionary measure.

According to the minister, patients who are positively affected by diphtheria infection should be isolated in hospitals to prevent transmission to others. "Basically, the governments readiness regarding the spread of diphtheria will lead to availability of vaccine in every region and the availability of antibiotics for healing infected patients," she remarked.

Meanwhile, touching on the preparedness of puskesmas public healthcare centers in the face of diphtheria and the government guarantee to ensure the availability of vaccine in every public healthcare centers, Maharani revealed that from the coordination with the Ministry of Health, there should be no puskesmas that have unavailable vaccine stock.

Virtually, children are not expected to contract the diphtheria virus, known as Corynebacterium diphtheriae, if they have received complete vaccinations.

Chairman of the Indonesian Pediatric Association (IDAI) Dr Aman B Pulungan said children who have received complete diphtheria immunization should not contract the disease. "The problem is whether the immunization is sufficient and complete or not," Bulungan noted in Jakarta on Tuesday.

Bulungan added that the only way to prevent diphtheria transmission is through immunization. Diphtheria is very easily transmitted through the air, breath, or cough of the patient.

Therefore, people with diphtheria, who are hospitalized, are usually isolated and should not be visited to prevent transmission. After all, diphtheria can cause death, especially in children.

Diphtheria has an incubation period of two days to five days and is contagious for two weeks to four weeks. The disease is highly contagious and can cause death if not treated quickly.

Early symptoms of diphtheria may be nonspecific, such as high fever, decreased appetite, lethargy, pain while swallowing, sore throat, and greenish yellow nasal secretions that may be accompanied by blood.

However, diphtheria has a distinctive mark consisting of grayish white membrane in the throat or nose followed by a swelling of the neck or called a "bull neck."

The IDAI chairman explained that the carrier of diphtheria-causing bacteria may not be sick or may not have contracted the disease. "Careers can go everywhere while they are not sick but can transmit," Bulungan elaborated when contacted in Jakarta on Tuesday.

Therefore, the only way to prevent transmission of diphtheria is by immunization. Children who have received complete diphtheria immunization still need to be immunized every 10 years.

Diphtheria immunization begins in children less than a year and is given thrice, while children aged from one to five years should get repeat immunization twice.

School-aged children should receive diphtheria immunization through the School Child Immunization Month (BIAS) program. Elementary school students should get immunization when they in the first, second, third, or fourth classes.

Source: Antara News

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