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Diphtheria


Definition


Diphtheria is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium called the "Corynebacterium diphtheriae". This bacterium is found in humans and mainly affects children. Diphtheria is spread by droplets of saliva from a patient's sneezes or coughs. The person in the vicinity of the victim is consequently contaminated by the toxin that the bacterium secretes. This causes inflammation that is mainly located in the tonsils, pharynx and larynx. Diphtheria can cause death, but thanks to the compulsory vaccination of infants, the number of cases has significantly reduced.

Symptoms


Symptoms of diphtheria include:
  • tonsils with a pearly or grayish appearance and false membranes that reach the uvula;
  • Nasal discharge of pus;
  • swollen glands in the neck;
  • moderate fever;
  • loss of appetite;
  • complications in the form of respiratory irritation, myocardial inflammation, or neurological complications such as blurred vision, paralysis of the palate.

Diagnosis


Diphtheria, at the very early stages, can be confused with angina. In the absence of vaccination, the doctor will take a throat sample to be sent to the laboratory, and immediately implement a treatment in case of suspected diphtheria.

Treatment


The treatment of diphtheria is done with an injection of an antitoxic serum, either intramuscularly or intravenously. To this injection we add a treatment of antibiotics to kill the bacteria. Meanwhile, the patient should be isolated from the rest of the hospital. If the throat culture comes back negative, the quarantine may be lifted. Vaccination will then be performed. Without treatment, the disease can be fatal. The appearance of the disease must be reported to regional health authorities.

Prevention


Only routine infant immunization can prevent diphtheria.
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