Diphtheria death shows Queensland is failing to properly vaccinate, AMA warns

Diphtheria death shows Queensland is failing to properly vaccinate, AMA warns

Diphtheria death shows Queensland is failing to properly vaccinate, AMA warns

Updated 8 February 2018, 12:50 AEDT

The death of a far north Queensland man from diphtheria, a disease that has all but disappeared, shows the state is falling short on vaccination, the Australian Medical Association says.

The death of a far north Queensland man from diphtheria is a sign the state is failing to properly vaccinate the community, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) says.

The man, who was in his 20s and not vaccinated against the disease, was flown from Cairns Hospital to Brisbane's Prince Charles Hospital in a critical condition on January 24, and on Wednesday authorities confirmed he had since died.

It is the state's first recorded death from the bacterial disease since 2011.

Diphtheria causes severe inflammation of the nose, throat and windpipe but is considered rare in most developed countries because of widespread vaccination programs.

Queensland Health said the case was acquired locally and the department last month tracked down five people who had been in close contact with the man to ensure they had not contracted the disease.

Dr Richard Kidd from AMA Queensland said the case highlighted the risk of not being vaccinated against rare diseases.

"In the early 1900s, diphtheria caused more deaths in Australia than any other infectious disease," he said.

"It's a very powerful story about the value of the vaccine because it's virtually disappeared and no vaccinated person has died from diphtheria in Australia in the past 20 years."

He said it was concerning that diphtheria still claimed lives in Australia.

"It means that we are failing as a community to properly vaccinate people," he said.

"One of the reasons it's not spreading and we're just getting the isolated cases is because the herd immunity is pretty good, but it should be better.

"If it was better we wouldn't even be seeing those isolated cases happening."

Dr Kidd said the AMAQ was concerned that claims made by the anti-vaccination movement were contributing to lower vaccination rates in Queensland.

"The anti-vaccination network [Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network] has been very active in Queensland in the past few years and has been affecting, in some areas, the vaccination rates through misinformation.

"Parents who want to do the right thing for their children are always looking for information to help them decide what is the right thing to do, and the misinformation from the anti-vaccination network has led some parents to not vaccinate their children, which is awfully worrying."

Queensland Health issued a statement to the ABC offering condolences to the man's family.