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Death of Grade 4 student sparks diphtheria scare in Manila school

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By Erma Edera

A 10-year-old elementary student in Manila died due to suspected diphtheria, a highly communicable bacterial infection affecting the nose and throat.

Jacinto Zamora Elementary School (cleanairasia.org)

Jacinto Zamora Elementary School (cleanairasia.org)

Josefina De Guzman, school nurse of Jacinto Zamora Elementary School, said the Grade 4 student, who had rashes and mouth sores, died last September 20 hours after she was clinically diagnosed with diphtheria. She last attended her classes on Sept. 13.

According to the nurse, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine is still conducting laboratory tests to verify the clinical diagnosis. The results may be released in a week.

The student’s death prompted fellow students at the Jacinto Zamora Elementary School to skip their classes.

“Maybe some students and parents were not educated enough about this disease,” De Guzman told Manila Bulletin in a phone interview.

Jacinto Zamora Elementary School has over 2,300 students.

De Guzman said they already disinfected the school premises and those students who had close contact with the suspected diphtheria patient were also given prophylactic treatment.

“This is the fourth case of diphtheria in Manila, according to Dr. Eduardo Serrano Jr. of the Manila City Health Office Division of Preventable Disease,” De Guzman said.

As of press time, no other student in the school has manifested symptoms experienced by their late schoolmate.

According to the World Health Organization, diphtheria is an infectious disease, which primarily infects the throat and upper airways, and produces a toxin affecting other organs causing myocarditis or peripheral neuropathy.

The disease is spread through direct physical contact or from breathing in the aerosolized secretions from coughs or sneezes of infected individuals, WHO said.

Diphtheria is still a significant child health problem in countries with poor Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) coverage, it added.

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