The Disease That Kills Children
- a thick gray membrane covering your throat and tonsils
- a sore throat and hoarseness
- swollen glands (enlarged lymph nodes) in your neck
- difficulty breathing or rapid breathing
- nasal discharge
- fever and chills
- using Diphtheria antitoxic to neutralize (counteract) the toxin produced by the bacteria
- using antibiotics to kill and eliminate Diphtheria bacteria
Affects On People
- 1 out of 10 people die from it. Mostly children
Diphtheria: The Plague Among Children
Diphtheria once was a major cause of illness and death among children. The United States recorded 206,000 cases of diphtheria in 1921, resulting in 15,520 deaths. Diphtheria death rates range from about 20% for those under age five and over age 40, to 5-10% for those aged 5-40 years. Death rates were likely higher before the 20th century. Diphtheria was the third leading cause of death in children in England and Wales in the 1930s.
Since the introduction of effective immunization, starting in the 1920s, diphtheria rates have dropped dramatically in the United States and other countries that vaccinate widely. Between 2004 and 2008, no cases of diphtheria were recorded in the United States. However, the disease continues to play a role globally. In 2007, 4,190 cases of diphtheria were reported, which is likely an underestimate of the actual number of cases.
The current U.S. childhood immunization schedule for diphtheria includes five diphtheria toxoid immunizations before age six years, plus one booster dose for adolescents. (A toxoid is a toxin modified to invoke an antibody response, but not capable of causing disease.) All diphtheria immunizations for children are given in a single injection combined with tetanus toxoid and pertussis vaccine (known as DTP or DTaP). Adults receive diphtheria toxoid in combination with a tetanus toxoid booster, which is recommended every ten years. The adult product can protect against tetanus and diphtheria (a vaccine known as Td) or all three diseases (a vaccine known as Tdap).