Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection. It usually affects the nose and throat and causes a bad sore throat, swollen glands, fever and chills. It is caused by a bacteria named Corynebacterium diphtheriae. But the hallmark sign is a thick, gray covering in the back of your throat that can make breathing difficult. Diphtheria can also infect your skin. Years ago, diphtheria was a leading cause of death among children. Today, diphtheria is very rare in the United States and other developed countries thanks to widespread vaccination against the disease. Fewer than five cases occur in the United States each year, but diphtheria bacteria still exist in the world and can cause outbreaks if vaccination is inadequate. The bacteria that cause diphtheria are usually spread in droplets of moisture coughed into the air. Usually the bacteria multiply on or near the surface of the mucous membranes of the mouth or throat, where they cause inflammation. Some types of Corynebacterium diphtheriae release a potent toxin, which can damage the heart, kidneys, and nervous system. A milder form of diphtheria affects only the skin and occurs mainly in adults. This form is more common among people with poor hygiene (for example, homeless people).
Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that affects the tonsils, pharynx, larynx, nose, and skin . It produces a thick membrane which covers the area of inflammation. Children under 5 and adults over 60 years old are particularly at risk for contracting the infection. People living in crowded or unclean conditions, those who aren't well nourished , and children and adults who don't have up-to-date immunizations are also at risk. Diphtheria is rare in the United States and Europe, where health officials have been immunizing children against it for decades.
Causes of Diphtheria
Diphtheria spreads through respiratory droplets (such as those produced by a cough or sneeze) of an infected person or someone who carries the bacteria but has no symptoms. Diphtheria can also be spread by contaminated objects or foods (such as contaminated milk). Symptoms usually occur 2 to 5 days after you have come in contact with the bacteria.
The bacteria most commonly infects the nose and throat. The throat infection causes a gray-to-black, tough, fiber-like covering, which can block the airways. In some cases, diphtheria may first infect the skin, producing skin lesions.
Signs and Symptoms of Diphtheria
In its early stages, diphtheria can be mistaken for a bad sore throat. A low-grade fever and swollen neck glands are the other early symptoms.
General symptoms manifest themselves as a slight rise in temperature, limpness and fatigue. In weeks two to six of the illness, damage to the heart and nervous system may be observed in the form of irregularities of the heart beat and paralysis. In the worst cases, this may cause serious disturbances in cardiac rhythm, and possibly cardiac arrest.
Treatment for Diphtheria
The disease may remain manageable, but in more severe cases lymph nodes in the neck may swell, and breathing and swallowing will be more difficult. People in this stage should seek immediate medical attention, as obstruction in the throat may require intubation or a tracheotomy. In addition, an increase in heart rate may cause cardiac arrest. Diphtheria can also cause paralysis in the eye, neck, throat, or respiratory muscles.
Penicillin or erythromycin may also be given, particularly to guard against complicating factors such as pneumonia or streptococcal infection.
How can diphtheria be prevented?
The single most effective control measure is maintaining the highest possible level of immunization in the community. Other methods of control include prompt treatment of cases and a community surveillance program.
About the author:
Read out for Medical information. Check out blood pressure and stress