More than 40 British doctors, nurses and firefighters from the UK’s Emergency Medical Team have flown out from Manchester Airport today to Bangladesh to tackle an outbreak of diphtheria
The UK’s latest response follows a formal request for assistance from the WHO and the Government of Bangladesh after more than 2000 suspected cases and 22 reported deaths from the airborne virus that is expected to increase significantly over the Christmas period.
There are currently not enough staff or beds to manage the outbreak.
Diphtheria is a fast spreading, extremely deadly infection, and there are a reported 160 new cases every day in Cox’s Bazar which is home to more than 600,000 Rohingya people who have recently fled the violence and military persecution in Burma.
It is especially dangerous for children who are particularly vulnerable. It causes extreme difficulty breathing, inflammation of the heart which can lead to heart failure, problems with the nervous system and fatal paralysis.
The team will be deployed to Cox’s Bazar for six weeks, where clinicians will work using existing health facilities.
This will include 36 NHS medics, such as doctors, nurses and epidemiologists who will provide immediate specialist life-saving care to tackle the diphtheria outbreak, as well as around five logistics staff from UK fire and rescue services who will provide expert advice to create the right infrastructure for the EMT to start their urgent work.