The person died after becoming ill at Manston immigration centre on Saturday morning

Dozens of migrants with suspected diptheria have been moved from the Manston processing centre to hotels around the country, prompting fears about the spread of the highly contagious disease.

Concerns grew after the Home Office yesterday confirmed that a migrant who died at the former military base in Kent last weekend had contracted the infection, which may have been the cause of his death.

There have now been 50 confirmed cases of the disease in Britain since the start of the year, according to health officials, compared to a single case in 2020.

The numbers are likely to rise in the coming weeks as suspected cases are confirmed with testing. An increasing number of diphtheria cases is already being confirmed in migrants across Europe.

Cases have now been detected in hotels across the country taken over by the Home Office to house migrants. The majority of cases are in the South East, it is understood.

Dozens of migrants with suspected diphtheria have been moved from the Manston processing centre (pictured) to hotels around the country

Dozens of migrants with suspected diphtheria have been moved from the Manston processing centre (pictured) to hotels around the country

Dozens of migrants with suspected diphtheria have been moved from the Manston processing centre (pictured) to hotels around the country 

Diphtheria is a highly contagious bacterial infection affecting the nose, throat and skin. It is spread by coughs and sneezes or through close contact with an infected person. 

The NHS says cases are rare in the UK and can be treated through antibiotics and other medicines. Vaccination against diphtheria is part of the routine six-in-one childhood jab given to babies.

A Middle Eastern man, believed to be in his 30s, died in hospital last Saturday after entering the UK on a small boat seven days earlier, while already unwell. While initial tests for infectious diseases were negative, a follow-up indicated that ‘diphtheria may be the cause of the illness’, the Home Office said yesterday.

Health authorities have warned that overcrowded accommodation at sites such as Manston are ‘high-risk for infectious diseases’. At one point, as many as 4,000 people were staying at the site, which is designed to hold just 1,600. Last week, the Government said the site had been emptied.

Manston is designed to hold new arrivals for short periods during security checks before they are moved to hotels, but some were held for longer due to a lack of alternative accommodation.

Concerns grew after the Home Office yesterday confirmed that a migrant who died at the former military base in Kent last weekend had contracted the infection. Men thought to be migrants are pictured at the Manston immigration short-term holding facility, November 8

Concerns grew after the Home Office yesterday confirmed that a migrant who died at the former military base in Kent last weekend had contracted the infection. Men thought to be migrants are pictured at the Manston immigration short-term holding facility, November 8

Concerns grew after the Home Office yesterday confirmed that a migrant who died at the former military base in Kent last weekend had contracted the infection. Men thought to be migrants are pictured at the Manston immigration short-term holding facility, November 8

All migrants arriving in the UK are offered voluntary vaccinations against diphtheria and antibiotics are also provided.

Dr Trish Mannes, of the UK Health Security Agency, said: ‘The risk of diphtheria to the wider public remains very low, due to high uptake of the diphtheria vaccine and because the infection is typically passed on through close prolonged contact.’

A Government spokesman said: ‘Our thoughts remain with the family of the man who has died. Initial test results for an infectious disease were negative, but a follow-up PCR test was positive, indicating that diphtheria may be the cause of the illness. The coroner will conclude in due course.

‘We take the safety and welfare of those in our care extremely seriously and are taking all the necessary steps following these results. We are offering diphtheria vaccinations to people at Manston, which has 24/7 health facilities and trained medical staff.’

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