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Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection. Diphtheria typically causes a bad sore throat, fever, swollen glands and weakness. Diphtheria causes a thick gray coating at the back of the throat, which makes hard for the person to breathe and can result in suffocation. If it is not properly diagnosed and treated it produces a poison in the body that can cause serious complications such as heart failure or paralysis.
Children younger than 5 years old and adults older than 60 are particularly at risk of contracting diphtheria are:
Diphtheria is caused by bacteria known as Corynebacterium diphtheriae. These bacteria are Gram-positive, aerobic, nonmotile, rod-shaped bacteria. The bacterium produces a toxin that is carried in the bloodstream. Toxins produced by the bacteria may affect the tissues and organs throughout the body and can result into a serious problem as inflammation of the heart, heart failure and paralysis.
A person who has the disease may get infected within 2-4 weeks, but sometimes when the person does not gets infected then also he may the carrier of the bacteria for a longer.
Diphtheria bacteria live in the mouth, nose, throat, or skin of infected persons.
Diphtheria can also be spread via bloodstream to other organs, where it can cause significant damage.
Diphtheria was once quite common, but has now is a very rare disease and has largely been eradicated in all developed nations.
Signs & Symptoms
Normally in its early stages, diphtheria can be mistaken as bad sore throat. A low-grade fever and swollen neck glands are the other early symptoms. A characteristic sign of this disease is a thick, gray covering which develops at the back of your throat, making it very difficult to breathe. Some other signs and symptoms of diphtheria may include:
Diagnosis of diphtheria is done by physician examination and throat culture. Because diphtheria must be treated as quickly as possible, doctors usually make the diagnosis on the basis of the visible symptoms without waiting for test results.
The Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus (DPT) vaccine can prevent diphtheria, but its protection does not last forever. Adults should get another dose, or booster, every 10 years.
The only effective treatment of diphtheria is the prompt administration of antitoxin to neutralize any exotoxin still circulating in the bloodstream.
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