What is diphtheria? Symptoms, prevention and more

What is diphtheria?

 Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection that affects the mucous membranes of the nose and throat.  Diphtheria spreads easily from person to person, but it can be prevented by taking medicines.

 Some symptoms of diphtheria are usually similar to those of a cold.  Diphtheria causes problems like sore throat, fever, swollen glands and weakness etc. but the main symptom of its identification is the accumulation of a thick layer of dark gray substance inside the throat.  This layer can block your breathing tubes, causing you to have trouble breathing.

Medicines are available to treat diphtheria, although as the disease progresses, diphtheria can also affect your heart, kidneys and nervous system.  Diphtheria can be fatal even with treatment.  3 percent of people who contract diphtheria die.

Before its treatment was discovered, diphtheria was widespread and was more common among fifteen-year-olds.  Although the diphtheria vaccination program has reduced the incidence of diphtheria, it can still seriously affect people.

Symptoms of diphtheria –

As the problem progresses, the following symptoms may occur:

  • difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • double vision
  • heart palpitations
  • to sweat
  • Restlessness
  • to speak vaguely
  • symptoms of going into shock
  • Fading of skin and cooling of skin
  • Other symptoms:
  • running nose
  • severe sore throat
  • hoarse cough
  • bluish skin
  • drooling
  • Fever
  • feel unwell
  • Swelling of lymph nodes in the neck
  • feeling cold

 If someone in your family or you know has diphtheria or has symptoms or is at risk for diphtheria, go to your doctor right away but remember that not every throat infection is diphtheria.  Get your child vaccinated for its immunity and if you are getting vaccinated, remember that this vaccine should be the latest one.

Due to diphtheria –

 Three types of bacteria can spread diphtheria.  However, each type of bacteria causes diphtheria at different rates.  The bacteria produce a potent toxin that damages body tissues.

 This bacteria usually grows on or near the surface of the throat.  It spreads in the following three ways –

 Infected germs present in the air:

 When a person sneezes or coughs, tiny water droplets infected with germs spread into the air and people nearby inhale them.  Diphtheria is most commonly spread in this way, especially in crowded places.

 Infected items:

 Diphtheria can sometimes be spread by touching objects used by an infected person or by eating and drinking from utensils used by them.

Infected household items:

 In some rare cases, diphtheria can be spread through household items that become contaminated by common use.  Like towels or toys . You can also get diphtheria from touching an infected wound.

Measures to prevent diphtheria –

  • Diphtheria can be prevented with antibiotics and vaccines.
  • Vaccination has led to a decline in diphtheria incidence and mortality but it is still a prevalent disease among children.
  • The diphtheria vaccine is known as DTAP and is usually given with the pertussis and tetanus vaccines.  This vaccine is given in five doses to children of the following age groups –
  • Two months
  • Four months
  • six months
  • fifteen to eighteen months
  • four to six years
  • In some rare cases, children may be allergic to this vaccine, which may cause seizures or hives.
  • The effect of the vaccine only lasts for ten years, so your child will need to be vaccinated again around the age of twelve.

 It is recommended for adults to get diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccination in one go and then every ten years you will be given tetanus-diphtheria vaccination.

Diagnosis of Diphtheria :

  • There are many tests available for diphtheria, so if your doctor suspects diphtheria from your symptoms, he or she will run tests.
  • Your doctor will examine you physically to check for swollen lymph nodes and will also ask you about your symptoms and past illnesses.
  • If you have a gray deposit in your throat or tonsils, it can be assumed that you have diphtheria.  To confirm this, the doctor will take a sample of the affected tissue in your throat and send it to a laboratory for testing.  Your throat culture test may also be done.
  • After isolating the bacteria from a tissue sample taken from a suspected person, its toxicity is tested.
  • Samples are taken from nose and throat.
  • Samples of all the people suspected of the disease along with their close relatives are also taken.

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