PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry has advised parents to get their children vaccinated against diphtheria after it identified a suspected case where a two-year-old boy, who was not vaccinated, died from the disease at the Miri Hospital, last Wednesday. In a statement, today, Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the toddler had not been vaccinated since he was born as the family refused to do so due to religious reasons . Noor Hisham said the victim had presented symptoms such as fever, cough, flu and breathing difficulties seven days before his death. "Throughout last year, 32 positive cases of diphtheria were reported throughout the country with seven (22%) deaths recorded. The majority of cases resulting in deaths are from the community that rejects vaccination. "Vaccination against the disease is a must for infants aged 2, 3, 5 and 18 months as it could prevent them from being caught by the disease," he said. Stating that diphtheria infection has a high mortality rate, Noor Hisham said if children are not vaccinated they can be infected with Corynebacterium diphtheria bacteria that are spread through respiratory droplets. "These bacteria will produce toxins that cause inflammation around the throat and neck swelling which can cause the children to suffer respiratory difficulties. "This toxin can also absorb into the blood, disabling nerves and causing heart inflammation (myocarditis)," he added.