What you should know about Diphtheria

In the face of recent news about  the outbreak of diphtheria in some states in Nigeria, there is a need for people to have information about diptheria; the causes, prevention and treatment available for the disease in order for them to live well and healthy because information is power.

Diptheria is a serious infection caused by strains of bacteria known as corynebacterium diphtheriae that creates toxin which makes people to get very ill. It is an infection of the nose and throat which creates a kind of  thick, grey matter which covers the back of the throat, making breathing hard.

Diptheria  is  indeed rare in Nigeria and there are fewer than 10 thousand cases annually. It is preventable mainly by vaccine and treatable by medication after proper medical diagnosis via laboratory tests or imaging.

It spreads in various ways and in short-term, it resolves within days to weeks while in critical situations, emergency care is a priority.  The bacterium usually multiplies on or near the surface of the throat or skin.

And like other contagious diseases, diptheria can be spread by airborne respiratory droplets through coughs or sneezes or through exchange of saliva; by kissing or shared drinks.

Diphtheria bacteria spreads from person to person and people can also get sick from touching infected open sores or ulcers.

The bacteria can also infect the skin, causing open sores or ulcers. However, diphtheria skin infections rarely result in severe disease but if the toxin gets into the blood stream, it can cause heart, nerve, and kidney damage.

The symptoms include sore throat, fever, swollen lymph nodes and general weakness.

Those vulnerable to the infection are those in the same household, those with a history of frequent, close contact with a patient or those directly exposed to secretions from the suspected infection site of the patient.

The major factors that constitute risk and make people susceptible to diptheria are poor hygiene, crowded environments and lack of immunization.

People sometimes catch diphtheria from handling an infected person’s things, such as used tissues or hand towels, that may be contaminated with the bacteria.

And while diptheria is easily preventable by a vaccine, treatments include medications especially antibiotics like  penicillin or erythromycin which  helps to kill bacteria in the body and clearing up infections.

Also, doctors may prescribe an antitoxin to counteracts the diphtheria toxin in the body. In the advanced stages, even with medication, diphtheria can be dangerous, especially in children.

Meanwhile, victims of diptheria under normal circumstance, are unable to infect others 48 hours after they begin taking antibiotics but it is necessary  to finish taking the full course of antibiotics to make sure the bacteria are completely removed from the body.

Complications that can arise from respiratory diphtheria may include; damage to the heart muscle called myocarditis, airway blockage, kidney failure, nerve damage (polyneuropathy) and in some cases, death.

Even with treatment, people can still die and without treatment,  up to half of patients can die from the disease.

The diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine is one of the childhood vaccinations globally recommended.



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