Diphtheria is a bacterial infection caused mainly by the bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheriae. It is a contagious disease that spreads through air droplets released by infected person via coughing or sneezing and sometimes through direct skin contact.
In addition, sharing objects used by infected person can also be contagious. People living under the unhygienic conditions, poor sanitation and overcrowding are at risk of developing diphtheria. Unimmunized children are more likely to develop the infection.
The bacterium usually targets the upper respiratory tract such as nose, larynx and throat. It can lead to blocking airway and infection of the lung. The infected person commonly experiences difficulty in breathing and swallowing. This is due to the formation of thick gray coating in throat and nose.
In severe cases, pneumonia and complete loss of ability to move leading to paralysis and structural damage to cardiac muscles can occur. If untreated, the complications can be fatal and lead to death of the infected person.
Signs And Symptoms
- Swollen neck
- Sore throat
- Nasal discharge
- Rapid heart rate
- Weakness due to disturbed breathing and food intake
Diagnosis And Treatment
Diphtheria is diagnosed by examining the tissue samples and doing a swab test. Treatment of diphtheria includes use of antibiotics and anatoxins to target the toxin produced by the bacteria. Antibiotic such as erythromycin has been scientifically proven to be the most effective against the causative bacterium.
However, prevention of the disease is a better strategy. Vaccines are routinely administered to prevent diphtheria in children.