Diphtheria is a bacterial infection affecting the mucous membranes of the nose and throat. In the past, it readily spreads from one individual to another, but it is now prevented with the help of vaccines.
A doctor must be consulted right away if an individual is suspected with diphtheria. If not treated, it can cause significant damage to the kidneys, heart and nervous system. It is considered deadly in around 3% of reported cases.
What are the causes?
Corynebacterium diphtheria is responsible for causing the condition. It is usually spread via person-to-person exposure or contact with contaminated objects.
Even if an infected individual does not have any indications of diphtheria, they can still spread the infection for up to 6 weeks after the initial infection.
The bacteria usually infect the nose and throat. If infected, the bacteria releases toxins that can spread via the bloodstream and often cause a grayish, thick coating on the throat, nose, tongue and airway. In some cases, the toxins can also impair other organs including the kidneys, heart and the brain.
What are the indications?
The indications of diphtheria often arise within 2-5 days after being infected. Some do not have any symptoms while others develop minor symptoms the same as common cold.
The most evident and prevalent symptom is a grayish, thick coating on the tonsils and throat.
Other common symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Swollen neck glands
- Bluish-tinged skin
- Loud, bark-like cough
- Generalized feeling of discomfort or uneasiness
Diphtheria is a serious ailment that the doctor treats in an aggressive manner. The initial step is an antitoxin injection which counteracts the toxin released by the bacteria.
A doctor should be informed if the individual is allergic to the antitoxin. Small doses of the antitoxin are given and gradually increased to a higher dosage. Antibiotics are also prescribed such as penicillin and erythromycin to clear the infection.
During treatment, the doctor will require the individual to stay in a healthcare facility to prevent the spread of the infection to others.