Malappuram: A six-year-old boy Muhammed Shan who was infected with diphtheria passed away on Tuesday and the Kerala health department has now begun an awareness campaign and a planned vaccination drive in Thavanoor and Maranchery panchayats.

Shan was undergoing treatment at the Government Medical College in Trissur when he breathed his last. The child was not administered vaccination that prevents the disease.

Malappuram DMO K Sakkeena told reporters that though the final diphtheria test results of the boy were yet to arrive, the department was on with the campaign.

Diphtheria is an infectious disease of the nose and throat. This disease is easily preventable by vaccination. The child's parents were reluctant to vaccinate him despite health workers advocating the same.

Reports suggest that as per 2016, 23,912 out of 342,657 children in Malappuram who were below the age of five were not immunised.

That year alone, two deaths were reported due to diphtheria and the reason behind it was lack of immunisation in the district. Religious groups in the district advocate stiff opposition to the immunisation.

After a long interval, the dreadful diphtheria disease was reported in the district in January. Two high school students from the district had been admitted to Government Medical College Hospital in Kozhikode, with diphtheria.

The disease made a re-emergence in 2017, a vaccination and awareness drive against it was initiated. There were more than 30 confirmed cases of diphtheria and two deaths had been reported at the time.

Kerala is now mulling over making the vaccination mandatory for school admissions in order to bring down the number of such deaths in the future.

Diphtheria is a disease caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheria that infects the throat and upper airways, and produces a toxin affecting other organs. The diphtheria toxin causes a membrane of dead tissue to build up over the throat and tonsils, making breathing and swallowing difficult, said the World Health Organization.