It has been clinically confirmed that the death of a six-year-old boy of Malappuram district was due to diphtheria.
"It has been clinically confirmed that diphtheria caused the death, the lab report has not come yet. For confirmation of diphtheria, there is no need for a lab positive result. All the clinical findings are definitely diagnostic. Also, after sending sample to a lab for examination, we need not wait for confirmation from there. The decision to start treatment is based on clinical judgement. At the same time we need not to discontinue medication due to a negative report from a lab and in such a situation you are not supposed to stop the containment measures as well," Dr Purushothaman, head of paediatric department of the Government Medical College Thrissur told TNM.
The boy was admitted at the medical college on June 10, and passed away a day later. The child was not administered vaccination that prevents the disease. His parents are from Edappal in Malappuram.
Diphtheria is an infectious disease of nose and throat. This disease is easily preventable by vaccination. The child's parents were reluctant to vaccinate him despite health workers advocating the same.
"It's a major issue to be addressed. A decision at the government level should be taken for mandating vaccination for enrolling children into school. Children are public asset. And it's not the parents ' right to disagree. The government should go for it even if a section of people would oppose," Dr Purushothaman added.
As of 2016, 23,912 out of 342,657 children in Malappuram below the age of five were not immunised.
More than one out of every three children in the age group of five and 16 have never been vaccinated in the district.
In June 2016, two diphtheria deaths were reported in the district. The reason for lack of immunisation in the district is attributed to the opposition from a few religious groups.
District Medical Officer, Malappuram Dr K Sakeena told TNM that parents who still hesitate to administer vaccination should cooperate with the health department’s drive for it
"There's 92.5 per cent vaccination rate for Malappuram now which is a great achievement. But in the past, there is a large population which is not immunised. And in an area where a major section of population is not immunised is a cause of concern. Now we have decided to administer vaccination to the remaining children who are not immunised," Dr Sakeena told TNM.
"We urge the public to cooperate as well as the parents to give the children their right to get vaccinated," she added.