UK medics prevent diphtheria epidemic in the Rohingya camps

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Dr Derek Sloan, a consultant in infectious diseases from Fife, Scotland, examines a child for symptoms of diphtheria in the Kutapalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Derek is part of the UK's Emergency Medical Team tackling an outbreak of diphtheria outbreak in the Kutupalong camp for Rohingya refugees, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, 10 January 2018. The British medic is part of the UK's Emergency Medical Team, which is drawn from volunteers across the NHS. The team was deployed to Bangladesh at the end of December 2017 by the Department for International Development, in response to a request for international assistance by the Government of Bangladesh and the World Health Organisation to help contain an outbreak of diphtheria in the huge camps which have sprung up around Cox's Bazar in the south of the country, since the arrival of over 700,000 thousand Rohingya people fleeing violence in neighbouring Myanmar. Diphtheria is a potentially fatal contagious bacterial infection that mainly affects the nose and throat, and sometimes the skin. It is highly contagious and is spread by coughs and sneezes, or by contact with someone with diphtheria or items belonging to them, such as bedding or clothing. The infection is usually caught after being in close or prolonged contact with someone who has the condition or is carrying the infection. An estimated 5-10% of people who get the infection will die from complications of diphtheria, such as breathing difficulties, inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) or problems with the nervous system. Picture: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development

WORLD (London) : A team of British medics, composed of 40 NHS doctors, nurses and paramedics triaged more than 3,000 people, and treated more than 500 for diphtheria, most of them children, in the Rohingya refugee camps in the Bangladesh government-run Kutupalong camp in the Cox’s Bazar region. SKYNEWS reported that the emergency medical team, who returned to UK over the week-end, was on a six-week deployment at the start of the year and was stationed at three treatment centres. The medics administered precautionary antibiotics and life-saving diphtheria anti-toxins to people in the camps. Before the teams arrived , the outbreak was on the verge of becoming an epidemic. Dozens of refugees had already died, and more than 150 new cases were being reported every day. By the time they left, the number of new cases presenting daily was down to single figures.

The work of the emergency aid teams has been supported by a UNICEF vaccination programme. International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt has praised the “vital work” of the British team.

She said: “I have nothing but admiration and thanks for the UK medics who travelled to Cox’s Bazar over the New Year to help victims of diphtheria, who without UK support would have died.”