A vaccine preventable infection
Identification & Definition
History of Diphtheria
Signs & Symptoms of Diphtheria
The incubation period for this infection ranges from 1-10 days, but is typically about 2-5 days.
Diphtheria symptoms start out similar to the common cold or sore throat. These symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Swollen glands in the neck
Within two to three days, a thick, grayish membrane will appear on the back of the throat or nose, making it very difficult to breath. This membrane can build up on many wet, mucous membranes of the body, including:
- Nasal tissues
- Voice box
Transmission of Diphtheria
Complications of Diphtheria
- Blocking of airway
- Skin lesions
- Damage to the heart muscle (myocarditis - presented as abnormal cardiac rhythms)
- Inflammation of nerves, which may cause nerve damage (polyneuropathy)
- Lung infection (respiratory failure or pneumonia)
- Death - about 1 in 10 people who get diphtheria will die from the infection or complications
Myocarditis may occur during the illness, but it is important to note that it can also occur weeks after the infection has been cleared up. Myocarditis is usually fatal if it occurs early in the illness.
Around the third week of illness, paralysis of the soft palate is usually seen. After the fifth week, paralysis of the eye muscles, limbs, and diaphragm can occur. If there is diaphragmatic paralysis, secondary pneumonia and respiratory failure may also be seen.
Recommended Control Measures for Diphtheria
Photos from the Public Health Image Library (PHIL)