Several people have been infected with diphtheria at a centre for asylum seekers – the first known cases of the bacterial infection in Switzerland in nearly 40 years.
Up to eight people living in a centre in the capital, Bern, contracted the disease but had no difficulties breathing, a spokesman for the State Secretariat for Migration said on Tuesday.
The infected group of people were put in isolation and more than 170 other asylum seekers, notably unaccompanied minors, are in quarantine at the centre.
Diphtheria rarely occurs in Western Europe, where children for decades have been vaccinated against the highly contagious infection of the nose and throat.
Diphtheria is an infection caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae. Most infections are asymptomatic or have a mild clinical course, but in some outbreaks more than 10% of those diagnosed with the disease may die. Signs and symptoms may vary from mild to severe and usually start two to five days after exposure. Symptoms often come on fairly gradually, beginning with a sore throat and fever. In severe cases, a grey or white patch develops in the throat. This can block the airway and create a barking cough as in croup. The neck may swell in part due to enlarged lymph nodes. A form of diphtheria which involves the skin, eyes or genitals also exists. Complications may include myocarditis, inflammation of nerves, kidney problems, and bleeding problems due to low levels of platelets. Myocarditis may result in an abnormal heart rate and inflammation of the nerves may result in paralysis.
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