Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that affects mainly the mucous membrane of the throat and nose. Diphtheria can spread easily from person to person. Diphtheria causes a sore throat, fever, swollen glands and weakness. In severe cases a sheet of thick and gray material covers the back of your throat resulting it blocking of your airway. Blockage of airway can make it difficult for you to breath.
In severe cases diphtheria can damage the other organs of your body like heart, kidneys and nervous system. 3% of people suffering with diphtheria die when left untreated. The death rate is higher in children who are under 15 years of age.
What Causes Diphtheria?
Diphtheria is caused by a bacterium called Corynebacterium diphtheria. Diphtheria spread from person to person and can also infect people who come in con tact with the objects that are contaminated with the bacterium.
When an infected person sneezes or coughs, the organisms are released in the air and can infect the people in the surrounding. The bacterium can also infect a healthy individual who comes in contact with the contaminated object used by the infected patients.
The bacterium mostly infects your throat and nose. Once the bacterium infects a healthy individual, it releases dangerous substances called toxins in your body. The toxins released by the bacterium spread through your bloodstream and often results in formation of a thick gray coating in different part of your body like:
In severe cases the toxins released by the bacteria can damage other organs in your body like: heart, kidney and brain
Symptoms of Diphtheria
Visible symptoms generally appear after 2-5 days of infection and the common symptoms include:
- A thick gray membrane covering throat and tonsils
- Sore throat
- Swollen glands in your neck
- Difficulty in breathing
- Nasal discharge
- Fever and chills
In few cases the patient does not show any visible symptoms and makes it difficult for diagnosis and treatment. In such cases the person acts as a carrier and spread infection to people without being sick themselves.
Diphtheria is a preventable disease by using certain antibiotics and vaccines. The vaccine that is generally used for diphtheria is called DTaP. It is mostly given in a single shot along with vaccines used for pertussis and tetanus.
In very rare cases the children will have allergic reaction due to the vaccine. The allergic reactions generally results in seizures or hives. The vaccine for diphtheria is given at the following ages in children:
- 2 months
- 4 months
- 6 months
- 15-18 months
- 4-6 yrs
When you observe any of the symptoms related to diphtheria, it is recommended to consult a doctor for early diagnosis and treatment. In case when you are diagnosed with diphtheria, you need to take precautionary measures to avoid spreading of infection to other healthy individuals. Cover your nose and mouth while sneezing and coughing to prevent the spread of infection.