Two patients suffering from diphtheria in Edinburgh hospital

Two cases of potentially deadly disease diphtheria have been diagnosed by medics in Edinburgh.

Most people in Scotland are vaccinated against diphtheria.
Most people in Scotland are vaccinated against diphtheria.

The patients are believed to have travelled overseas recently and the two cases are thought to be related. They are being treated in an Edinburgh hospital.

The illness is very rare in the UK due to immunisation and NHS Lothian said the likelihood of any additional infection as a result of the two confirmed cases is very small. In Lothian, 98 per cent of children are vaccinated against diphtheria by the age of 24 months. Since 2015, there have only been five other reported cases north of the border.

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Alison McCallum, director of public health for NHS Lothian, said: "All close contacts of these patients have been identified, contacted and followed up in line with nationally agreed guidelines.

"We encourage people travelling abroad to visit Fit for Travel where they can access information on how to stay safe and healthy abroad, as well as destination specific health advice."

Diphtheria is a highly contagious and potentially fatal infection that can affect the nose and throat, and sometimes the skin and which can lead to difficulty breathing, heart failure and paralysis.

The infection is spread by coughs and sneezes, or by sharing items such as cups, cutlery, clothes or bedding with an infected person.

The disease has been almost eradicated by vaccination, but remains a problem in parts of Eastern Europe, Africa, South America, Russia, Central and South East Asia where vaccine coverage is low.

In Scotland, it previous affected large numbers of people. A medical paper, Diptheria in Scotland, written in 1945 - the early days of the diphtheria vaccination programme - by then deputy chief medical officer for Scotland, Sir Alexander Russell,, said that the illness had "always taken a heavy toll of child life in Scotland".

He added that the illness had "periodically appeared in epidemic form".