Nevin Manimala Statistics

Australian vaccine preventable disease epidemiological review series: diphtheria 1999-2019

Commun Dis Intell (2018). 2022 Jul 21;46. doi: 10.33321/cdi.2022.46.42.


BACKGROUND: Diphtheria is rare in Australia, but an increasing number of cases have been notified in recent years. Alongside notifications from 1999 to 2019, we analysed other relevant national data sources to evaluate trends over the past two decades.

METHODS: Diphtheria notifications (National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System [NNDSS]), hospitalisations (National Hospital Morbidity Database [NHMD]) and deaths (Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Coordinating Registry) were separately analysed by site of infection, age group, sex, state/territory, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status, and vaccination status.

RESULTS: During the study period, eight (0.002 per 100,000 population per year) cases of respiratory diphtheria and 38 (0.008 per 100,000 population per year) cases of cutaneous diphtheria were recorded in the NNDSS, with 45/46 reported in the nine years since 2011. Corynebacterium diphtheriae accounted for 87% of notified cases, who had a median age of 31.5 years (respiratory diphtheria) and 52.5 years (cutaneous diphtheria); no respiratory diphtheria was notified in those under 15 years of age. A majority of the cutaneous diphtheria cases (27/38; 71%) were acquired overseas, as were 3/8 (38%) of the respiratory diphtheria cases. Rates of both presentation types were higher in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (respiratory: 0.007 per 100,000 population per year; cutaneous: 0.021 per 100,000 population per year) than were rates in the overall population. Queensland had the highest rate of notified respiratory cases (0.007 per 100,000 population per year), and the Northern Territory the highest rate of cutaneous notifications (0.043 per 100,000 population per year). There were 29 hospitalisations with a principal-diagnosis diphtheria code in the NHMD between 2002 and 2018, of which eight were designated as respiratory (0.002 per 100,000 population per year), eight as cutaneous (0.002 per 100,000 population per year), and 13 with an unknown site of infection. Among notified cases, two deaths were reported in unvaccinated people in Queensland.

CONCLUSIONS: Although diphtheria remains rare in Australia, 45 cases were notified in the years 2011-2019, compared with one case between 1999 and 2010. Robust surveillance remains important to detect all cases. High immunity will need to be maintained across all age groups to prevent outbreaks, and travel and adult booster doses should be encouraged.

PMID:35860872 | DOI:10.33321/cdi.2022.46.42

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