Diphtheria (NHS Lothian)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 12th November 2019.

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Photo of Michelle Ballantyne Michelle Ballantyne Conservative

2. To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the reports of people being treated for diphtheria in the NHS Lothian area. (S5T-01879)

Photo of Joe FitzPatrick Joe FitzPatrick Scottish National Party

We have been informed by NHS Lothian that two related cases of diphtheria have been confirmed in the Lothian area, with both patients having recently returned from abroad. All close contacts of those patients have been identified, contacted and followed up in line with nationally agreed guidelines.

The likelihood of any additional cases is very small, as most people are protected by immunisation given in childhood. In Lothian, 98 per cent of children are vaccinated against diphtheria by the age of 24 months.

The best way to avoid diphtheria while travelling is to be fully vaccinated against it. We encourage people who intend to travel abroad to visit the fitfortravel website, where they can access information on how to stay safe and healthy abroad, as well as destination-specific health advice.

Photo of Michelle Ballantyne Michelle Ballantyne Conservative

My thoughts are with the two patients who caught such a highly contagious bacterial infection, and I am sure that members will join me in that and in thanking the medical staff at NHS Lothian for their quick response in dealing with it.

The minister highlighted that it is important to get our children vaccinated when they are young by following the schedules that have been put in place and that we should seek advice when travelling. I welcome the fact that he has reiterated that and I hope that he will agree with me that people across the country should check that their vaccinations are up to date, particularly for diseases such as diphtheria, which requires a 10-year booster, especially if they are not sure.

Photo of Joe FitzPatrick Joe FitzPatrick Scottish National Party

I thank the member for the way in which she has raised the question. It is a good opportunity for us to remind everyone of the importance of vaccinations in childhood and when travelling. Again, I recommend that people take a look at the fitfortravel website for advice and, if necessary, go and speak to their general practitioner about what vaccinations they should have.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I thank the minister for his first answer and for mentioning the fitfortravel website. Can he not think not just about getting people immunised as children but about how to raise awareness of diphtheria and other contagious infections that can be widespread in other parts of the world? How do we get that message out to all ages to avoid people being hit by these diseases?

Photo of Joe FitzPatrick Joe FitzPatrick Scottish National Party

To be clear, I again recommend that anyone who intends to travel abroad should visit the fitfortravel website and seek advice from their GP about the services that are available and what is required for their visit.