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Disease Outbreaks Plague Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

At Balukhali refugee camp in Bangladesh, unclean water, cramped living quarters and squalid conditions create a prime environment for outbreaks of preventable diseases among the estimated 650,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled strife in neighboring Myanmar.

While 900,000 doses of oral cholera vaccine already have been delivered by more than 200 mobile vaccination teams, another contagious bacterial infection, diphtheria, has emerged.

“Diphtheria is a vaccine preventable disease. It’s an illustration of how the Rohingya population that are living in the makeshift settlements here had very little access to health care in their place of origin in Myanmar,” said Kate Nolan, emergency coordinator with international aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders.

Diphtheria often causes the buildup of a sticky grey-white membrane in the throat or nose. The infection causes airway obstruction and damage to the heart and nervous system. The fatality rate increases without the diphtheria antitoxin.

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