SPECTRE Blog

The Facts about Diphtheria

In Niger, Guinea, and certain provinces of Vietnam, the CDC has issued a Level 2: Practice Enhanced Precautions due to the rise of cases in the shaded areas.

What is diphtheria?

Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae. It can lead to difficulty breathing, heart rhythm problems, and even death. It can be spread from person to person through respiratory droplets (coughing or sneezing) or touching infected open sores or ulcers.

Symptoms:

-       Weakness

-       Sore throat

-       Mild fever

-       Swollen glands in the neck

The onset of these symptoms usually occurs 2-5 days after exposure, and treatment should be started as soon as possible. However, if the bacteria enter the bloodstream, it can cause heart, nerve, and kidney damage. The bacteria can also affect the skin, creating open sores or ulcers. Respiratory diphtheria is usually more severe than skin diphtheria infections as 1 in 10 cases of respiratory diphtheria are fatal.

Treatment:

-       Antibiotics

-       Antitoxin

Complications:

-       Airway blockage

-       Myocarditis (damage to the heart muscle)

-       Polyneuropathy (nerve damage)

-       Kidney failure

Prevention:

Vaccination: DTaP, Tdap, DT, and Td vaccines.

In addition to getting antibiotics, close contacts of someone with diphtheria should be:

-       Monitored for possible illness for 7 to 10 days from the time they were last exposed.

-       Tested for diphtheria with a sample collected from the nose and throat.

-       Given a diphtheria booster if they are not up to date with their vaccines.