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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Diphtheria Jump Raises Specter of an Epidemic

The number of diphtheria cases has sharply increased in 1994 and city health officials are warning of an escalating epidemic.

At least 547 cases of diphtheria, a bacterial infection which affects mucous membranes, were registered in the city in the first two months of 1994 and 20 of the victims, including two children, died, said Igor Nadezhdin, spokesman for the city Health department.

The figures show that the disease is continuing the sharp increase registered last year when the number of cases tripled to about 2,000 and the city began an immunization campaign.

Few children get infected because immunization campaigns are much more successful among juniors, Nadezhdin said.

Under the current rules, city schools and kindergartens do not enroll children who do not possess complete vaccination records.

"Adults are just not getting inoculated," Nadezhdin said, noting that last year's decision by Mayor Yury Luzhkov to impose obligatory immunizations "are not completely working out."

He said about 3 million adults working in Moscow have been vaccinated, while at least 7.5 million will need proper vaccination to stop the epidemic.

The younger population is very well covered with 98.5 percent of all children under 17 sufficiently immunized.

Nadezhdin said the situation with vaccine and anti-diphtheria serum is "normal" but he predicted a further 200 percent increase in cases, calling that a "cautious estimate."

In another development, Itar-Tass reported an outbreak of salmonella in the far eastern town of Amursk. The agency said 160 people, most of them schoolchildren, were suffering from the disease.