Almost 500 cases of diphtheria are suspected in Yemen, the World Health Organisation said yesterday. The outbreak began in August last year, Reuters has reported.
According to WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic, Ibb and Al-Hudaydah governorates are the worst hit by the disease, which can be spread through close physical and respiratory contacts. “The overall case fatality ratio is 10 per cent,” he added. As of 2 January, 46 fatalities had been recorded.
The spread of diphtheria can be prevented through medication. The WHO has delivered antibiotics and containers of diphtheria antitoxin to affected areas and is assisting in the establishment of treatment centres.
Diphtheria is a bacterial disease which was last found in Yemen 25 years ago. It can lead to breathing issues, heart failure, paralysis and death.
Last year, the UN reported that nearly one million people were infected with cholera in Yemen. The Island of Socotra was the only area that had not witnessed a cholera outbreak. The strategic Red Sea port of Hudaydah, which is currently under the control of the Houthis, has the highest number of cases, at more than 143,000.
In the midst of a severe famine and deteriorating health conditions, Yemen is enduring a civil war which erupted in 2014 when Houthi militias took control of the capital Sana’a alongside forces loyal to the late ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The internationally-recognised President, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, was forced to call in the Saudi-led coalition to neutralise threats posed by the Houthi-Saleh alliance in March 2015.
More than 10,000 people have been killed in the war, while more than 11 per cent of the country’s population has been displaced.