More cases of diphtheria recorded among asylum seekers

More cases of diphtheria among asylum seekers have been reported in England, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said.

he total number of cases for the year so far now stands at 67, figures published on Tuesday show.

The UKHSA said five cases of diphtheria among asylum seekers were reported between December 12 and 18.

In the previous week – from December 5 to 11  – the total was 62 after another five cases were reported.

This time last month – between November 14 and 20 – the number was 45.

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Boats thought to have been used by migrants to cross the Channel were removed from the water, documented and taken away to storage in Dover on Tuesday (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Fifty of the cases were recorded in the South East, six were in London, and there were fewer than five in each of the following areas: East of England, West Midlands, South West, North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber, the latest report said.

No breakdown by county has been provided.

Last month, the immigration minister told MPs asylum seekers with symptoms of diphtheria would be put into isolation after the UKHSA said there has been an “increase” in the number of infections among those coming to the UK.

Robert Jenrick said migrants showing signs of the highly-contagious disease will be separated for a “short period” at the Manston migrant processing centre in Kent or held in a “designated isolation centre” while they are treated.

Any asylum seekers who may have the infection but are already in hotels will be told to isolate in their rooms while they are treated.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman faced criticism about overcrowding and outbreaks of disease at Manston amid concerns a man held there may have died from a diphtheria infection.

Hussein Haseeb Ahmed, 31, died at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (QEQM) hospital in Margate on November 19 after being held at Manston after crossing the Channel a week earlier.

The Home Office initially said there was no evidence he died from an infectious disease but a follow-up test for diphtheria was positive, indicating this may have been the cause.

An inquest into Mr Ahmed’s death has been adjourned until next May.

Ministers and health officials have insisted the risk of the public getting diphtheria is very low and infections are rare.

The illness – which affects the nose, throat and sometimes skin – can be fatal if not treated quickly but antibiotics and other medicines are available.

Some public health experts raised concerns about the spread of the disease as migrants were moved to hotels.

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