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Diphtheria is a highly contagious and potentially fatal throat infection, caused by Corynebacterium Diphtheriae.

Sex or Age most affected

Older children (5 years and above), adolescents and adults.

Signs & Symptons

Early stages:

  • Sore throat with a milky white patch covering one or both tonsils.
  • Low grade fever.
  • Swollen glands in the neck.

Late stages:

  • Airway obstruction and breathing difficulty.
  • Shock (low blood pressure; rapid heartbeat; paleness; cold skin; sweating; anxious appearance).


A bacteria called, corynebacterium diphtheriae, infects the throat and sometimes the skin. The interval between contacting the infection and getting symptoms is 5 to 9 days. The germ produces poisons that spread to the heart, central nervous system and other organs.

Risk Increases With

  • Poor nutrition.
  • Outbreak in the community, and an unimmunized child.
  • Crowded or unsanitary living conditions.
  • Lack of up-to-date immunizations.


  • Immunization with diphtheria vaccine.
  • Improved nutrition and standard of living.


  • Notify the local health department of any case of diphtheria. Anyone having contact with the patient must be examined and treated.


  • This is a medical emergency hence Hospitalization.

Public Complications

  • Heart inflammation and heart failure.
  • Suffocation.
  • Nerve inflammation.
  • Misdiagnosis as a less-serious infection, resulting in dangerous delay of treatment.

Diagnostic Measures

  • Observation of symptoms.
  • Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
  • Laboratory studies, such as throat culture and blood counts.

Probable Outcomes

Usually curable in 1 week, followed by slow recovery for several weeks. A delay in treatment may result in death or long-term heart disease.


General Measures

  • Quarantine the patient until fully recovered. Protect susceptible individuals (the non-immunized, very young or elderly) from exposure.
  • Dispose off all secretions (nose and mouth) and excretions (urine and feces) in an acceptable manner. Call the local health department for instructions.


Your doctor may prescribe:

  • Diphtheria antitoxin to neutralize the diphtheria toxin.
  • Antibiotics to fight remaining diphtheria germs.


Prolonged bed rest (2 to 3 months or until fully recovered), especially if the heart is involved. The patient may watch TV or read.


No special diet. except to eat heartily.

Contact your Doctor

  • You observe symptoms of diphtheria in someone. This is an emergency!
  • Anyone in your family is exposed to diphtheria.
  • Your child’s immunizations is not up-to-date.

The following occurs during treatment:

  • Temperature spikes to 102F (38.9C).
  • Increasing breathing difficulty.
  • Increasing shortness of breath.
  • Confusion.