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The Silent Spread of Diphtheria

A contagious disease has reappeared in Venezuela. After 24 years of being considered eradicated, the inhabitants of the south of the country are experiencing a diphtheria outbreak of hitherto incalculable scales. Minister of Health Luisana Melo has recognized as official medical report only two deaths out of the four cases confirmed by her office until October 11. But several death certificates, collected in situ by Armando.info, indicate that the number of deaths is higher.

11/6/2016 11:25:45 AM

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Diphtheria, the contagious disease eradicated 24 years ago in Venezuela, has reborn in Bolívar state (south of the country). Epidemiologists presume that the outbreak has arisen in an indigenous community, San Antonio Roscío, and has spread since April through other towns. At Hospital Raúl Leoni -known as Guaiparo- arrive suspicious cases from the states of Anzoátegui, Bolívar and Delta Amacuro. "Runny nose, swollen tonsils, signs like a cold. It could be confused with tonsillitis, but nobody dies of that. So when death comes, we suspect that it is diphtheria," says a doctor.

Eight-year-old Abismael Espinoza Rodríguez arrived at the Guaiparo hospital with this clinical condition, one night in late September. The parents of the child had gone first to a medical module of Barrio Adentro —the health program sponsored by former President Hugo Chávez with Cuba’s cooperation— in the town of San Félix. "The doctor said it was tonsillitis, so we went back home and just follow the treatment. But as days passed, he got worse. We decided to take him to a hospital and that's when the worst happened," says Gregoria Rodríguez, the boy's mother.

On October 11, the Minister of Health, Luisana Melo, spoke for the first time about the outbreak of the disease: "It is a regional issue, in Bolívar state only. Of all the suspected cases, four cases of diphtheria were found and two confirmed deaths. "But 12 days before these statements, there was another government diagnosis. Francisco Rangel Gómez, the governor of Bolívar, launched a much higher number in late September: "We have had 13 cases of diphtheria."