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.
Diphtheria is fatal in between 5% and 10% of cases. In children under five years and adults over 40 years, the fatality rate may be as much as 20%. Outbreaks, though very rare, still occur worldwide, including in developed nations, such as Germany among non-vaccinated children, and Canada. A diphtheria epidemic in the eastern part of Switzerland in 1974 and the measures which were taken for its management and eradication are described. In particular it is pointed out that at present diphtheria displays atypical clinical symptoms in Europe, a fact that renders the diagnosis very difficult in many cases. Therefore, it is important to perform a throat swab in every patient with suspected diphtheria; it is also necessary to explicitly require a search for C. diphtheriae. The early recognition and early treatment of diphtheria with penicillin or erythromycin is of the utmost importance in order to avoid neurological and cardiac complications.
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 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.