A rare disease in the rohingya refugee camp finds fertile ground.
Diphtheria poses a greater threat to the already troubled rohingya refugees.
Shortly after the arrival of hundreds of thousands of rohingya, the outbreak spread in refugee camps in Bangladesh. It seems to have reached its peak around the New Year, but is now attracting renewed attention as potentially deadly diseases continue to spread.
“Yesterday was a very busy day for us,” said Dr. Andy Doyle, who was at the diphtheria center for Samaritan’s wallet at the baruch refugee camp earlier this week. “We saw 117 patients enter diphtheria screening, which is the most we have seen in any given day.
Doyle is the medical director of the tent hospital.
The waiting area, just under a canopy, was crowded with people waiting for the diphtheria. ‘it looks like they’re going to have a record number of patients for the second day in a row,’ Mr. Doyle said.
Doyle and his team treated diphtheria only in this facility. So, the first thing that a worker needs to do is screen the patient to make sure it’s not just a bad cold.
“Diphtheria is not something we see in the west,” Doyle said of the air bacterial infection. “Most of the people who work here are from the west, and before we came here a week or two ago, we didn’t see the disease, and now we’re experts in it.
Western countries do not see diphtheria because almost everyone is vaccinated. Doyle says the disease is easy to identify. The patient has a high fever, a sore throat, often a runny nose and a sore throat.
“Sometimes their necks swell, especially young children, and their necks become bigger,” he says. “This is called the bull’s neck, and these are signs that the airway is in danger, so that’s what we’re looking for.
This is the killing of the diphtheria: the swelling of the neck and the formation of a membrane in the throat that clogs the breath.
As of mid-january, nearly 5, 000 cases of diphtheria were reported in the camp, with 33 deaths. The fatality rate is much lower than in previous diphtheria. This could be because of the rapid access of patients to the six or seven clinics that appear in the camps.
Simple diphtheria cases can be treated with antibiotics. However, if the airway is in danger of being blocked, it is used by intravenous drip to eliminate toxins produced by bacteria. But antitoxin can cause a fatal reaction.
In a white tent in the back of the reception area, Nur Aysia Begum is using antitoxin for six hours. She was one of more than 650,000 rohingya refugees who arrived at the camp five months ago to escape what the United Nations called the ethnic cleansing campaign of the Burmese army.
Her mother, nanai catton, who sat next to her, said they feared the soldiers would kill them if they stayed. Now her family relies on international food aid to survive. When her daughter was ill, Khatun was worried because she had no money to buy a doctor.
All treatment in this clinic is free of charge.
Managing antitoxins is difficult and time-consuming, says Doyle.
“The nurse,” he said, gesturing to the nurse at Begum’s bedside, “will sit by the bedside and notice that a little allergic reaction is about to begin.
Public health officials are concerned about the extent of the threat to diphtheria and other infectious diseases by thousands of rohingya refugees. The refugees huddled together in makeshift shelters. Toilets and Wells have been randomly dug into refugee camps, often side by side. Another key factor that puts the rohingya at risk is that in myanmar they cannot even get the most basic immunization, says Marcella Kraay, coordinator of the MSF program.
“We had a big measles outbreak, and we had the biggest diphtheria in the world for a long time,” she said.
Health care is not what the long-persecuted rohingya lack in Burma.
Myanmar does not believe that rohingya are citizens. Muslim minorities face discrimination in schools and Labour. They need government permission to leave their villages. Some people were forced to live in camps. This was before the army began attacking them last year and burning down their villages.
Myanmar denies harassing rohingya. Burmese officials say the military is working to clean up the terrorists, when hundreds of thousands of rohingya fled across the border into Bangladesh.
Humanitarian organizations have launched a massive campaign to combat the long history of medical neglect. Health workers from the international non-profit organization and the bangladeshi ministry of health are trying to immunize people in and around the camps with the disease that can be prevented by diphtheria and other vaccinations.
However, diphtheria vaccine is an unmanageable vaccine. It takes three intervals, usually several months apart. Health officials here made the first round of diphtheria vaccination at the end of December, and hope to have the final two rounds in the next few weeks.
Before that, diphtheria had tens of thousands of sensitive targets in the camps.