Global epidemiology of diphtheria in the 21st century

Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal Volume 25, Issue 10, pp. 1834-1842
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In 2017, a total of 8,819 cases of diphtheria were reported worldwide, the most since 2004. However, recent diphtheria epidemiology has not been well described. We analyzed incidence data and data from the literature to describe diphtheria epidemiology. World Health Organisation surveillance data were 81% complete; completeness varied by region, indicating under-reporting. As national diphtheria–tetanus–pertussis (DTP) 3 coverage increased, the proportion of case-patients <15 years of age decreased, indicating increased protection of young children. In countries with higher case counts, 66% of case-patients were unvaccinated and 63% were 15 years of age, consistent with waning vaccine immunity. Global DTP3 coverage is suboptimal. Attaining high DTP3 coverage and implementing recommended booster doses are necessary to decrease diphtheria incidence. Collection and use of data on subnational and booster dose coverage, enhanced laboratory capacity, and case-based surveillance would improve data quality.

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