Updated 22 August 2017

Diphtheria outbreak in the Western Cape: Protect yourself

The infection has already claimed the life of a 10-year-old boy.


A deadly bacterial infection has broken out in the Western Cape and parents are urged to vaccinate their children against the preventable disease.

Diphtheria, a bacterial infection that affects the mucous membranes in the throat and nose, has already claimed the life of a 10-year-old boy from Strand and infected three other children, reports EWN.

Professor Lucille Blumberg, a consultant from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, confirmed to Business Day that the four cases are considered an outbreak and stressed the importance of vaccinating children from a young age.

“The message is that children must get their booster vaccination shots at 18 months and at school-going age,” Blumberg told Business Day, adding that the infected children were possibly never vaccinated in their life.

A medical team has now inoculated a total of 600 children in the infected Helderberg region to prevent the disease from spreading.

What is diphtheria?

According to, diphtheria is a severe bacterial infection that affects the mucous membranes of the throat and nose.

An infected individual will have toxins released through their bloodstream, causing a heavy grey substance to form in the nose, throat, tongue and airway.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of diphtheria start appearing two to five days from the start of the infection, cautions

Warning signs to be on the lookout for are:

a fever


swollen glands in the neck

a loud cough

a sore throat

bluish skin


a general feeling of uneasiness or discomfort

Are you at risk?

If you’ve received a vaccination, you aren’t at risk. However, those who haven’t are particularly vulnerable to being infected by the disease.

DTaP, the injection that protects against the deadly infection, is given to children in a series of five single shots, during the first six years of their life.

The ages are:

2 months

4 months

6 months

15 to 18 months

4 to 6 years

If you’re an adult, and haven’t received the necessary vaccinations as a child, you should get a combination of a diphtheria and tetanus booster injection.

This is known as the tetanus-diphtheria (Td) vaccine.

Sources: Business Day, EWN,