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Diptheria Confirmed Cause of Death for 8-Year-Old Greek Boy

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Photo: Eurokinissi/ Yiannis Panagopoulos, file

ATHENS - Diptheria - a respiratory disease thought wiped out 30 years earlier, was the cause of death of an 8-year-old Greek boy, a laboratory in the United Kingdom confirmed, setting off alarm bells about the illness.

The identity of the victim, who died at the Athens General Children’s Hospital, was not given after earlier reports said he had been admitted Nov. 22 with symptoms of acute laryngitis and severe respiratory distress and was placed in intensive care.

He died five days later of acute respiratory infection, pulmonary hypertension and pulmonary edema. Diptheria is an infection caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae and causes a thick covering in the back of the throat.

It can lead to difficulty breathing, heart failure, paralysis, and death. The U.S. Center for Disease Control recommends vaccines for infants, children, teens and also adults to prevent diphtheria.

Greece’s National Organization for Public Health said the Public Health England agency confirmed the presence of the disease without explaining how it could have resurfaced after thought to have been eradicated.

Despite initial reports that he was only partially vaccinated against diphtheria, sources from the National Health Organization (EODY) last week said he had received all five necessary shots after speculation tied to a growing anti-vaccine movement.

The 8-year-old had been in the care of a foster family for three years. It wasn’t explained how he contracted the disease although being vaccin