What is Diphtheria?

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What is Diphtheria? Blog Image


The World Health Organization (WHO) recently said that the Health Ministry of Guinea has reported an outbreak of diphtheria.

About Diphtheria

  • It is a highly contagious and infectious disease that causes severe inflammation of the nose, throat, and windpipe (trachea).
  • Cause: It is caused by strains of bacteria called Corynebacterium diphtheriae that make a toxin. It is the toxin that can cause people to get very sick.
  • Transmission:
  • The infection can transmit from a person with the infection to any mucous membrane in another person.
  • Diphtheria bacteria spread from person to person, usually through respiratory droplets, like from coughing or sneezing. 
  • People can also get sick from touching infected open sores or ulcers.
  • Symptoms:
    • Diphtheria signs and symptoms usually begin 2-5 days after a person becomes infected. Signs and symptoms may include:
  • A thick, gray membrane covering the throat and tonsils
  • A sore throat and hoarseness
  • Swollen glands (enlarged lymph nodes) in the neck
  • Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Fever and chills
  • Tiredness
    • If the toxin gets into the blood stream, it can cause heart, nerve, and kidney damage.
    • The bacteria can also infect the skin, causing open sores or ulcers. However, diphtheria skin infections rarely result in severe disease.
  • Treatment: Treatment aimed at countering the bacterial effects has two components:
    • Antitoxin: This is also known as anti-diphtheritic serum. It neutralizes the bacteria’s toxins. Doctors use the antitoxin to treat diphtheria that has affected the respiratory system. The antitoxin only works on toxins that have not yet bound with cells and tissue in the body.
    • Antibiotics: Erythromycin or penicillin can eradicate the bacteria and stop them from spreading. Antibiotics can treat diphtheria affecting the respiratory system and skin.

Q1) What is mucous membrane?

Mucous membranes protect the inside parts of your body that are exposed to air—similar to how your skin protects your external body. Mucous membranes are rich with mucous glands that secrete mucus to help keep the membranes moist.Examples of mucous membranes include lips, mouth, nasal passages, middle ear, and the eustachian tube.Other mucous membranes include the lining of the digestive tract, the lining of the urogenital tract (including the urethra and vagina), the lining of the respiratory tract, and your eyes (conjunctival membranes).

Source: Diphtheria outbreak in Guinea: 538 cases and 58 deaths reported; Know all about this disease