Fatal Respiratory Disease Due to Corynebacterium diphtheriae: Case Report and Review of Guidelines for Management, Investigation, and Control

Karen M. Farizo, Peter M. Strebel, Robert T. Chen, Anita Kimbler, Timothy J. Cleary, Stephen L. Cochi

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Abstract

Dramatic reductions in the incidence of diphtheria and high levels of childhood vaccination in recent decades have led the United States to establish the goal of diphtheria elimination among persons ≤25 years of age by the year 2000. In 1990, an unimmunized 25-month-old child died of respiratory diphtheria in Dade County, Florida, before treatment with diphtheria antitoxin could be instituted. Twenty-three asymptomatic household contacts and other close contacts of the child were identified, cultured for Corynebacterium diphtheriae, given antimicrobial prophylaxis, and vaccinated with diphtheria toxoid when indicated. Three contacts (13%) had pharyngeal cultures positive for toxigenic C. diphtheriae of the same type as that causing infection in the deceased child, but no additional cases developed. Although the source of infection was not determined, three other close contacts had recently been to Haiti, where diphtheria is endemic. A serological survey of 396 children <5 years of age who received care at a medical center in Dade County revealed that 22% lacked protective immunity to diphtheria. Attainment of the goal of diphtheria elimination among persons ≤25 years of age - and ultimately among all persons - will depend on the maintenance of a high level of clinical awareness of the disease, the prompt institution of preventive measures among close contacts of patients with sporadic cases, and improved vaccination levels among infants, children, and adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-68
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Infectious Diseases
Volume16
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1993

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases

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