Diphtheria outbreak in Guinea


West Africa map showing Guinea

West Africa map showing Guinea. Click on image to enlarge.



On 5 September 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported being notified by the Ministry of Health of a diphtheria outbreak in Guinea.


From 4 July to 13 October 2023, a total of 538 cases of diphtheria, were reported in the Kankan region, in the east-central part of Guinea.


Of the total cases reported, 520 are suspected and 18 confirmed with 58 deaths including 13 among confirmed cases. The case fatality rate (CFR) among all cases being 11%. The 1-4 years age group accounted for the largest proportion of reported cases.


Diphtheria is a highly contagious vaccine-preventable disease caused mainly by the bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheriae which can be fatal in 5-10% of cases, with a higher mortality rate in young children. However, in settings with poor access to diphtheria antitoxin, the CFR can be as high as 40%.


Diphtheria remains a significant health problem in countries with poor routine vaccination coverage.


According to WHO/UNICEF estimates of national immunization coverage (WUENIC), the immunization coverage with the diphtheria tetanus toxoid and pertussis (DTP3) containing vaccine was reported to be 47% for 2022 in Guinea and has remained below 50% since 2014. This is insufficient for achieving the coverage of 80–85% required to maintain community protection.


WHO assesses the risk of diphtheria to be high in Guinea, considering the chronically low vaccination coverage.


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Published: October 18, 2023

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