First case of diphtheria discovered in NSW this century

A case of throat diphtheria, a contagious and potentially fatal disease, has been confirmed in a two-year-old in northern NSW.

It is the first time the disease has been discovered in NSW this century.

The child, who had not been vaccinated, is currently in an intensive care unit in Queensland, NSW’s Northern Health District said in a statement.

“Diphtheria is very rare in Australia because of our long-term childhood immunization program,” said North Coast Public Health director Dr. Paul Douglas.

“However, the disease has very serious consequences and can be fatal.”

The disease is contagious and can be spread through coughing, sneezing and sometimes through contact with contaminated surfaces.

Health authorities said the family of the infected child and close contacts have been given antibiotics or immunization to reduce the risk of further transmission and there is no lasting risk to the community.

Symptoms of the disease include a sore throat, loss of appetite and a low-grade fever, followed by a grayish-white membrane that forms over the throat and tonsils making it difficult to breathe and swallow. It can also cause swelling in the neck and inflammation of the heart and nerves.

The disease can be fatal in 5 to 10 percent of people.

Symptoms usually start up to 10 days after exposure, and people who don’t receive treatment can remain contagious for up to four weeks after they start showing symptoms.

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