Diphtheria is an acute, toxin-mediated disease caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae. Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection usually affecting the mucous membranes of your nose and throat. Diphtheria typically causes a sore throat, fever, swollen glands and weakness. But the hallmark sign is a sheet of thick, gray material covering the back of your throat, which can block your airway, causing you to struggle for breath. The bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae causes diphtheria. C. diphtheriae spreads via three routes airborne droplets, contaminated personal items, contaminated household items. The signs and symptoms usually begin two to five days after a person becomes infected and may include a thick, gray membrane covering your throat and tonsils, a sore throat and hoarseness, Swollen glands (enlarged lymph nodes) in your neck, difficulty breathing or rapid breathing, nasal discharge, Fever and chills, malaise.
Diphtheria epidemics remain a health threat in developing nations. The largest epidemic recorded since widespread implementation of vaccine programs was in 1990-1995, when a diphtheria epidemic emerged in the Russian Federation, rapidly spreading to involve all Newly Independent States (NIS) and Baltic States. This epidemic caused more than 157,000 cases and 5000 deaths according to WHO reports. Disproportionately high rates of death were observed in individuals older than 40 years, and 5,000 deaths were reported. This epidemic accounted for 80% of cases reported worldwide during this time period.
From 1993-2003, a decade long epidemic in Latvia resulted in 1359 reported cases of diphtheria with 101 deaths. The incidence fell from 3.9 cases per 100,000 cases in 2001 to 1.12 cases per 100,000 populations in 2003. Most cases were registered in unvaccinated adults. Diphtheria antitoxin is given as a shot into a muscle or through an IV (intravenous line). The infection is then treated with antibiotics, such as penicillin and erythromycin. Other treatments may include fluids by IV, Oxygen, heart monitoring, insertion of a breathing tube, correction of airway blockages. Persons without symptoms who carry diphtheria should be treated with antibiotics.