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Sunday, July 24, 2011


What Is Diphtheria ?

Diphtheria is now uncommon that is has unfortunately become all too easy to forget that the germ is still around. But small outbreaks of diphtheria do still occur and children who have been immunization are at risk. Diphtheria is caused by a virulent germ called the Corynebacterium diphtheria or Klebs-Loeffler bacillus. It can be spread in various was: by direct contact with an infected person; by using their clothing or towels’ by contact with a carrier of the disease’ or by drinking contaminated milk.


Children between the ages of two and five years old are usually affected. At first the illness resembles severe tonsillitis with a high temperature and swollen red throat. Small white spots appears on the tonsils, spreading and joining together to from a grayish-white membrane. This spreads up towards the nose and down towards the throat become enlarged. Breathing becomes difficult and eventually the airway can get completely blocked, causing suffocation. The toxin produced by the bacteria may spread throughout the body to affect the heart muscles – possibly causing heart failure – and the kidneys. Paralysis of the muscles of the palate, eyes, eyes, back, abdomen, arms or legs also occur.


Early diagnosis is essential for effective treatment. Any delay makes the disease more likely to be fatal. Swabs from the nose and throat are taken and analyzed, and once the diagnosis has been made the child must be kept in bed and will usually be given antibiotics. In addition, the child must have diphtheria anti-toxin’ the sooner this is given, the greater the chance that the child will survive.


Skilled nursing is essential as recovery and convalescence are slow. There is also the danger that the patient, already weakened by diphtheria, may contact other infections, such as severe broncho-pneumonia, which could be fatal. Although diphtheria is extremely serious, with prompt treatment the chance of survival are fairly good.


Parents should be aware that the rarity of diphtheria is due to the widespread immunization of children and that all children must continue to be immunized in the first year of lfe to protect them and to ensure that the disease does not regain the foothold it once had.


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