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Diphtheria

What is Diphtheria?

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.

Diphtheria is a serious illness. It can lead to severe breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure, and death.

Diphtheria was a common childhood illness in the 1930's. It is rare in the United States and other developed nations but it still occurs in underdeveloped nations.

The bacteria that causes diphtheria is called Corynebacterium diphtheria.

How is Diphtheria Transmitted?

Diphtheria is transmitted from person to person through airborne droplets. The diphtheria bacterium in the airborne droplets can enter the body through the nose and mouth. It can also enter through a break in the skin.

You can protect yourself from diphtheria by taking a diphtheria vaccine. The vaccine can be given to children and adults. Most Americans receive diphtheria vaccinations as a child. Booster shots are recommended for adults every 10 years.

Symptoms of Diphtheria

Symptoms of diphtheria may vary from person to person. The most common symptoms are:

  • sore throat
  • difficulty breathing
  • rapid heartbeat
  • swollen lymph glands
  • gray membrane covering the throat and tonsils

Treatment Options for Diphtheria

Diphtheria can be treated. Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics and other medicines.

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