Diphtheria (dif-THEER-e-uh) is a serious bacterial infection that usually affects the mucous membranes of the nose and throat. Diphtheria is an acute bacterial disease that can affect the body in the tonsils, nose or throat, and/or on the skin. Diphtheria is a highly contagious infection that affects the nose and throat and sometimes the skin. Diphtheria is a serious, vector-borne bacterial disease that causes severe inflammation of the nose, throat, and trachea (windpipe).
Diphtheria bacteria can enter the body through the nose and mouth, causing respiratory diphtheria. Diphtheria can affect the respiratory system or cause a skin infection. The second type of diphtheria can affect the skin, causing pain, redness, and swelling, as with other bacterial skin infections.
If diphtheria affects tissues other than the throat and respiratory system, such as the skin, the disease is usually milder. Diphtheria can also cause paralysis of the eyes, neck, throat, or respiratory muscles.
People can also get sick from contact with infected sores from people with diphtheria on the skin. You can also spread the bacteria that cause diphtheria by touching an infected wound. It is also possible for an infected person to spread diphtheria through open sores that others touch or clothing that others touch.
Diphtheria is spread to others through close contact with the secretions of an infected person and through injuries to the nose, throat, eyes and/or skin. Anyone who is not protected by the vaccine and has been in close contact with an infected person can get diphtheria.
The diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis vaccine may also be distributed to those who collect wipes or glasses used by an infected person. It is easily spread from an infected person to other people through sneezing, coughing or even laughing. Diphtheria bacteria are spread from person to person through respiratory secretions or by inhalation of droplets containing diphtheria bacteria from an infected person through coughing or sneezing. A person becomes infected with diphtheria by spreading the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae through the air (infection occurs when sneezing, coughing and spitting) or by touching something containing the bacteria.
A bacterium called Corynebacterium diphtheriae releases a toxin that causes gray tissue to form in the throat, which can lead to swallowing and breathing problems. The toxin produced by Corynebacterium diphtheriae can cause abnormal growth of the membrane in the throat, which can lead to suffocation.
Sometimes people become infected with diphtheria through contact with infected objects, such as used handkerchiefs or towels, which may be contaminated with the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae. When an infected person sneezes or coughs, they release a mist from the infected droplets and nearby people can inhale C. diphtheriae. Diphtheria is most often spread when someone swallows or inhales drops from an infected person’s cough or sneeze.
Diphtheria is usually spread through person-to-person contact or through contact with objects containing the bacteria, such as a used cup or handkerchief. Infected people who are unaware of their illness are known to be carriers of diphtheria, as they can spread diphtheria without becoming ill themselves. People infected with diphtheria bacteria and not treated can infect people who have not been vaccinated against diphtheria, even if they do not show any symptoms. In some people, infection with the bacteria that causes diphtheria causes only mild illness or no obvious signs and symptoms.
A toxin or poison caused by bacteria that can cause a thick film (or membrane) to form in the nose, throat, or airways, distinguishing a diphtheria infection from other, more common sore throat infections, such as strep. throat). A toxin called an exotoxin causes the most serious complications associated with diphtheria. Diphtheria vaccines contain a weakened form of bacterial toxins called toxoids.
Diphtheria toxin is produced by C. diphtheriae only when infected by a bacteriophage that integrates the genetic elements encoding the toxin into bacteria. This toxin can spread through the bloodstream and damage other body tissues such as the heart muscle, causing complications such as inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis). In cases where a throat infection is overcome, the toxin spreads through the bloodstream and can lead to life-threatening complications affecting other organs such as the heart and kidneys.
Damage to the heart caused by diphtheria toxins can affect the heart’s ability to pump blood or the kidneys’ ability to excrete waste. If left untreated, diphtheria can cause serious damage to the kidneys, nervous system, and heart. While diphtheria can easily be passed from one person to another, it can be prevented with a vaccine. After contact with contaminated objects, the diphtheria bacteria can enter through skin breaks and cause cutaneous diphtheria.
Diphtheria bacillus usually remains and spreads in the tonsils, producing a powerful toxin that spreads throughout the body through the bloodstream and lymphatics and attacks the heart and nervous system. Laryngeal diphtheria usually results from infection spreading downward from the nasopharynx into the larynx; the airway may be blocked and must be restored by inserting a tube or cutting a hole in the windpipe (tracheostomy). In the most lethal form of nasopharyngeal diphtheria, the palatal infection spreads to the structures of the nose and pharynx, sometimes covering them completely and causing septicemia (blood poisoning). Other mucous membranes may become infected with diphtheria, including the conjunctiva of the eyes, vaginal tissues, and the external auditory canal.
After a doctor confirms the diagnosis with a throat culture, the infected person is given a special antitoxin given by injection or dropper to neutralize the diphtheria toxin already circulating in the body, as well as antibiotics to kill any remaining diphtheria bacteria. The incubation period (the time a person becomes infected after infection) of diphtheria is 2 to 4 days, although it can vary from 1 to 6 days.