50 asylum seeking people newly arrived in UK diagnosed with diphtheria this year

Manston processing centre Photo @Hunter19962

Fifty people who have arrived in the UK via irregular routes this year to seek asylum have been diagnosed with diphtheria, according to government statistics published today (November 28).

The first confirmed case was identified in February in the South East – likely Dover or Manston processing centre – and a further 49 confirmed cases reported as of 25 November.

These include 18 cases in October and 27 cases in November. Cases have mostly been identified in the South East shortly after people’s arrival to the UK.

Diphtheria is a very rare infection in England due to the success of the routine immunisation programme that was introduced in 1942, a time when the average annual number of cases was about 60,000 per year, with 4,000 deaths.

Over the past decade, the number of diphtheria cases in England has increased from an average of 2 to 11 cases per year (with the exception of 2020). In 2021, there were 10 cases of diphtheria in the UK.

Since 1 June, there has been an increase in cases reported among asylum seekers in Europe.  Cases were predominantly among young males aged 14 to 25 years old.

The majority of cases have presented with skin lesions or wounds acquired during extensive travel en route to the UK/

There have been 2 severe cases of respiratory diphtheria and one fatality in a man who had been staying at Manston but died in hospital this month. The cause of death is yet to be confirmed pending post mortem.

Treatment involves prompt administration of diphtheria anti-toxin (DAT) for severe cases and clearance with appropriate antibiotics.

A UK Health Security Agency report says many of the cases have originated from diphtheria endemic countries and those people have spent many weeks travelling across Europe before reaching England.

In response to the increase in cases, UKHSA issued a national briefing to alert colleagues including NHS staff on the evolving epidemiology and highlight the importance of early diagnosis and prompt treatment of suspected cases

People arriving at Manston are offered diphtheria vaccinations as part of a mass vaccination programme at initial reception centres.

A UKHSA report says: “Contact tracing efforts have been made to screen and prophylax close contacts of cases. In initial reception centres where there are challenges to individual case management and contact tracing, mass antibiotic and vaccination of residents have been recommended and information resources in key languages made available to support implementation. The Home Office is working with the NHS and other partners to operationalise this.

“Most cases have had onset of symptoms prior to arrival into the UK suggesting infection has occurred along the extended travel route through Europe or at country of origin.”

The risk to the wider UK population is low due to the country’s childhood immunisation programme.


  1. “People arriving at Manston are offered diphtheria vaccinations as part of a mass vaccination programme at initial reception centres.”

    Does this mean that they’re not compulsory? And are all people tested prior to being transferred to hotels across England?

    • It isn’t compulsory although take up is now reportedly 100%. Sky reports 500 people at Manston were vaccinated before moving to accommodation but I do not have the confirmation of that this evening so it is not in my report.

    • they are not compulsory,the immigrants can refuse.Gvmt don’t want to stigmatise one group.I know this is what we were told years ago.First hand experience .!

    • How many diseases do you test for? Even the tests could be refused, personally i’d make testing a pre condition of the acceptance of an asylum claim, along with DNA / age determination tests. I’ve no problem with the asylum system but have huge issues with its abuse. Diptheria is of little consequence in comparison to the TB problem across the country.

  2. According to the BBC, those infected will now be quarantined (months after it first got here), and that “there is minimal risk to public health”. Deja vu anyone?

    I should also point out, according to the governments own figures, under 95% of children have been vaccinated against the disease – that’s 1 in 20 at serious risk.

    I wonder if Roger Gale is now seeing how foolhardy he was to get Manston emptied asap?

    • That came from the top of government, not a backbencher & was no doubt to limit their liability to future legal actions after the report & horrendous publicity-they wanted to get it down as low as possible before the inspection team came in. It magically lost 2 thousand odd people in the days before the inspectors arrival date.

  3. I don’t think Peter C is getting the full picture.The people presenting to border officials in many western countries do so out of fear and poverty,caused in part by the rapacity in of some,not all, multi national companies.
    Why do you think that diseases like diphtheria and TB are still gaining victims? Because in many parts of the third world poverty warfare and corruption are hampering the provision of healthcare.
    Nigerians are riding in on the tops of tanker rudders to get to Europe,yet Nigeria is awash with oil.Shell has much to answer for there.
    Instead doubling down fruitlessly on prevention methods we should instead process those seeking asylum quickly efficiently and humanely.
    Where there are labour shortages we should recruit workers and manage their work visas effectively.
    Dog whistling is not finding a solution,it is instead distracting from the failures in the system.
    The Tory party has had 12 years to show it’s management efficiency,yet things are worse than ever.

    • Eh? If you read my comments, I am NOT blaming either the migrants or their countries for the disease. My major concern is that it isn’t dispersed around the country, in the process creating an epidemic far worse than the (mostly) heavy cold-like symptoms of Covid.

      So, do you believe that they should be forced to take the vaccine? What is YOUR solution to stop this disease spreading around our country?

  4. Despite the grotesque conditions at Manston ‘only’ 50 migrants have been diagnosed with it. That suggests that the disease doesn’t spread all that easily, despite the probable malnourishment and generally physically stressed state of those held there. Additionally, it can be effectively treated with antibiotics if caught early which makes it a very different beast to Covid.
    Something that is perhaps of greater concern in general is the absolutely lousy state of the NHS. The early symptoms are so generic that most might think they have a cold when in fact they need to contact a GP promptly. And good luck with that. The new pathway(?) of ‘A&E for everything’ would be a very bad idea given the overcrowded waiting areas packed with vulnerable people.

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