What is it?
It is a bacterial infection caused by Corynebacterium Diphtheria
The bacteria produces a toxin that affects multiple organs of the body
This highly contagious illness mainly affects people living in crowded or unclean conditions
What are the symptoms?
Sore throat, a low-grade fever and/or swollen neck glands
A membrane may form in the nose and throat causing breathing and swallowing problems
Some individuals will experience much more serious symptoms and consequences such as double vision, slurred speech and shock, suffocation, paralysis, heart damage and death
Most people treated for diphtheria survive but recovery is often slow
As many as 10% of diphtheria cases are fatal
Diphtheria can also cause a highly contagious skin infection called coetaneous diphtheria
Symptoms include pain, redness and swelling at the infection site and sometimes ulcers
How can I contract diphtheria?
By inhaling bacteria coughed or sneezed into shared spaces by people already infected with the illness
You can also get it by touching objects they’ve touched or if you touch an infected wound
Some infected people have no symptoms
Where can I contract it?
Diphtheria is endemic in some parts of Africa, Central and South America, Asia, the South Pacific, the Middle East and Eastern Europe
What vaccines are available?
There is no single diphtheria shot/vaccine
The diphtheria vaccine is always combined with the tetanus vaccine (Td)
The whooping cough vaccine is always combined with diphtheria and tetanus (TdaP)
Will I need a booster?
A routine booster is recommended for adults every 10 years
Adults who have not previously received the TdaP vaccine should get a single dose as a replacement for a Td booster to get whooping cough immunity
How can I prevent diphtheria?
If you think you’ve been exposed to someone who has diphtheria go see a doctor right away
The doctor will test you and may also give you a prescription for antibiotics
These antibiotics will help protect you from getting the disease
What is the treatment?
Antibiotics and the diphtheria antitoxin
Possible airway and cardiac monitoring in more severe cases