More cases of diphtheria recorded among asylum seekers after cases found at Manston migrant centre

Migrant Channel crossing incidents Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Seven more cases of diphtheria among asylum seekers were reported in England last week, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

The total number of cases for the year so far now stands at 57, figures published on Tuesday show.

It comes after reports of fresh cases of diphtheria found at the Manston migrant processing centre in Kent.

The UKHSA said seven cases of diphtheria among asylum seekers were reported between November 28 and December 4. In the previous week – from November 21 to November 27 – the total was 50 after five cases were reported.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman Credit: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

Some 44 of the cases have been recorded in the South East.

Last week, the immigration minister told MPs, asylum seekers with symptoms of diphtheria would be put into isolation after the UKHSA said there had 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 Manston or held in a “designated isolation centre” while they are treated.

Any asylum seekers who may have the infection but are already in hotels would 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.

The latest UKHSA data sets out how many cases were reported each month since the start of the year, with a weekly break down from October onwards.

The figures show the first case was reported in February but no more were recorded until June. Since then, fresh cases have been reported every month. The total number of cases first hit double figures in October.

Hussein Haseeb Ahmed, 31, died at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (QEQM) hospital in Margate on November 19. He had been held at Manston having crossed the Channel seven days 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 of the illness.

An inquest into his death opened in Maidstone on Monday and was adjourned until May next year.

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 have raised concerns about the spread of the disease as migrants were moved to hotels.

Gayatri Amirthalingam, UKHSA diphtheria incident director, said: “Whilst we continue to see diphtheria cases amongst asylum seekers, the risk of diphtheria to the wider public remains very low. This is due to high uptake of the diphtheria vaccine in this country, and because the infection is typically passed on through close prolonged contact with a case.

“In order to limit the risk of diphtheria being passed on within asylum seeker settings, UKHSA continues to recommend that individuals arriving at reception centres, and who have moved on recently, are offered a diphtheria vaccine and preventative treatment.”