• Diphtheria

    Definition

    Diphtheria is a life-threatening infection that spreads very easily. It is caused by bacteria. The infection most commonly attacks the mucus membranes (the tonsils, throat, and nose). It can also infect the skin. Some types of the bacteria can also cause damage to the heart, nerves, kidneys, and brain.
    Diphtheria is a medical emergency that requires immediate care from your doctor. Not everyone who gets diphtheria shows signs of illness, though they may be able to infect others. The sooner it is treated, the better the outcome will be.

    Causes

    Diphtheria is caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheriae . The infection spreads from person to person through contact with:
    • Droplets of moisture that are coughed or sneezed into the air by an infected person and breathed in by a noninfected person
    • Personal items, such as tissues or drinking glasses, that have been used by an infected person
    • Skin that is infected with diphtheria

    Risk Factors

    Factors that increase your chance of getting a diphtheria include:
    • Having never been immunized against diphtheria
    • Not having had a booster dose in the past ten years
    • Having a compromised immune system

    Symptoms

    Signs and symptoms of diphtheria usually begin 2 to 5 days after a person is infected. The most obvious sign of diphtheria is a gray covering on the back of the throat. The covering can detach and block the airway. If left untreated, the bacteria can produce a poison that spreads through the body causing damage to the heart, nerves, and kidneys.
    Symptoms include:
    • Sore throat and painful swallowing
    • Fever up to 103°F
    • Cough, possibly a barking cough
    • Swollen glands in the neck
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Weakness
    • Gray covering on the back of the throat
    • Skin infection
    Swollen Lymph Nodes
    Swollen lymph node
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Diphtheria will be suspected if the throat and tonsils are covered with a gray membrane.
    Your doctor may need to test to confirm the diagnosis. This can be done by collecting a tissue sample.

    Treatment

    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. If your doctor suspects diphtheria, your treatment will start right away, even before the lab results are returned. Treatment options include the following:
    • Antitoxin injection
    • Antibiotics
    • Isolation and bedrest

    Prevention

    The vaccine for diphtheria is safe and is very effective at preventing the disease. All children (with few exceptions) should receive the DTaP vaccine series. This protects against diphtheria, tetanus , and pertussis . Another vaccine called Tdap is routinely given to children aged 11-12 years after they have completed the DTaP series of shots. After that, adults should receive a booster dose of the tetanus and diphtheria vaccine (Td) every 10 years or after exposure to tetanus (in some cases).
    If you or your child has not been fully vaccinated, talk to the doctor. There are catch-up schedules available.

    RESOURCES

    Centers for Disease Control and PreventionNational Immunization Program http://www.cdc.gov/

    National Foundation of Infectious Diseases (NFID) http://www.nfid.org/

    National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/

    World Health Organization http://www.who.int/

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    HealthLinkBC http://www.healthlinkbc.ca/

    Caring for Kids The Canadian Paediatric Society http://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/

    References

    Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases . 12th ed (May 2012). Published by the National Immunization Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Department of Health and Human Services. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/index.html#order. Accessed January 7, 2013.

    Recommended adult immunization schedule—United States, 2012. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep . 2012;6(4). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/downloads/adult/mmwr-adult-schedule.pdf . Accessed January 7, 2013.

    Recommended immunization schedule for persons aged 0 through 6 years—United States 2012. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/downloads/child/0-6yrs-schedule-pr.pdf . Accessed January 7, 2012.

    Recommended immunization schedule for persons aged 7 through 18 years—United States 2012. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/downloads/child/7-18yrs-schedule-pr.pdf . Accessed January 7, 2013.

    Td or Tdap vaccine: what you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-td-tdap.pdf . Published January 24, 2012. Accessed January 7, 2013.

    1/24/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Updated recommendations for use of tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine from the advisory committee on immunization practices, 2010. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011;60(1):13-15.

    11/4/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Updated recommendations for use of tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine (Tdap) in pregnant women and persons who have or anticipate having close contact with an infant aged <12 months—Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2011. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011;60:1424-1426.

    Revision Information

  • Join WellZones today.

    Make a Change For LifeLearn more

    Wellmont LiveWell is creating a new tradition of wellness in the mountains by providing individuals with tools and encouragement to live healthier lifestyles.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    HeartSHAPE® Test Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.


  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.