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Two children have been diagnosed with diphtheria of the throat in New South Wales – the first incidences of the disease this century.

Health authorities confirmed the first case, that of a two-year-old boy, in the state’s north on Saturday.

He was taken into intensive care in a Queensland hospital.

Nurse holding a needle. Injection. Vaccine.
Two children have contracted diphtheria of the throat in NSW, prompting a vaccine reminder. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Yesterday, authorities confirmed a second case involving a six-year-old boy who is a close family contact of the first case.

He was taken to a northern NSW hospital as a precaution.

Neither child has been vaccinated against diphtheria.

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Diphtheria is a contagious, vaccine-preventable disease that is spread mainly through respiratory droplets during close contact with a person who has the bacteria.

While no other cases of throat diphtheria have been reported in NSW since the 1990s, on rare occasions other less serious cases of diphtheria have been reported, mainly involving the skin.

North Coast Public Health director Dr Paul Douglas said the risk to the broader community is low.

“However, this is a very serious disease and can be fatal, so families should be alert and review the immunisation status of their children on the Australian Immunisation Register or with their medical provider, to ensure they are update with all vaccinations,” he said.

Diphtheria is a contagious, vaccine-preventable disease that is spread mainly through respiratory droplets during close contact with a person who has the bacteria. (CDC)

“Diphtheria is very rare in Australia due to our longstanding childhood immunisation program.

The diphtheria vaccination is free and available from GPs for everyone from six weeks of age.

In Australia, children are vaccinated at six weeks, four months, six months, 18 months, four years, and at the beginning of high school.

In adulthood, diphtheria vaccine is included with tetanus and pertussis vaccines in the DTPa vaccines, which are recommended for adults every 10 years and in pregnancy.

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