Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection that usually affects the mucous membranes of your nose and throat. In advanced stages, diphtheria can damage your heart, kidneys and nervous system. Even with treatment, diphtheria can be deadly, especially in children. Today, the disease is preventable with a vaccine.
Diphtheria 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
In some people, infection with diphtheria-causing bacteria causes only a mild illness — or no obvious signs and symptoms at all. Infected people who remain unaware of their illness are known as carriers of diphtheria, because they can spread the infection without being sick themselves.
People who are at increased risk of contracting diphtheria include:
- Children and adults who don’t have up-to-date vaccinations
- People living in crowded or unsanitary conditions
- Anyone who travels to an area where diphtheria infections are more common
Diphtheria is caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium Diphtheriae. The bacterium usually multiplies on or near the surface of the throat. C. diphtheriae spreads via:
- Airborne droplets.
- Contaminated personal or household items.
People who have been infected by the diphtheria bacteria and who haven’t been treated can infect people who haven’t had the diphtheria vaccine — even if they don’t show any symptoms.
Diphtheria is a serious illness. People who have diphtheria often need to be in the hospital for treatment. They may be isolated in an intensive care unit because diphtheria can spread easily to anyone not immunized against the disease.
Today, the disease is not only treatable but also preventable with a vaccine. Talk to your doctor about vaccines and booster shots if you’re unsure of your vaccination status.
Diphtheria vaccine is now available at Raffles Medical, please contact us to book an appointment.