A 14-month-old baby girl has died, believed to be due to diphtheria, on Monday. (NSTP Archive)

JOHOR BAHRU: A 14-month-old baby girl has died, believed to be due to diphtheria, on Monday.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noorhisham Abdullah in a statement said the baby did not receive diphtheria immunisation because the family had refused it.

"The child started out having fever and sore throat on Oct 4 and was taken to a private clinic by her mother for initial treatment on Oct 11. The next day, the child was taken to the emergency unit of a hospital after having breathing difficulties and loss of appetite.

"The patient was then admitted into the paediatric ward and later the paediatric's intensive care unit on Oct 13 as she had become weaker and needed respiratory aid," Noorhisham said.

On Monday, the patient succumbed to severe diphtheria with multiorgan failure, he informed.

He added that test was done on a throat swab sample of the patient and it showed the presence of the corynebacterium diphtheriae bacteria and the ministry was now waiting for lab confirmation.

Diphtheria, he said is an infection caused by the corynebacterium diphtheriae bacteria which causes sore throat in which a layer forms in the throat. It could lead to bacteremia and endocarditis complications which could prove fatal.

"Efforts to contain the spread of this infection include actively looking for cases at residential areas where cases are reported, giving immunisation and health education.

"Until today, no new cases have been reported to the ministry.

"We would like to advise the public to always be aware of infectious diseases which can be prevented via immunisation such as diphtheria, measles, mumps and others. Immunisation can be obtained at government or private clinics," he said.

According to him, failure to give children immunisation will not only put the children at risk of infection but can also endanger the community.

He called on parents who have yet to vaccinate their children to come forward and do so according to the schedule set by the Health Ministry.