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Diphtheria

Diphtheria is a rare disease in the United States due to immunization. Although diphtheria can infect the skin or respiratory tract, pharyngeal disease leading to airway compromise is the most immediately life-threatening complication. Diphtheria produces an exotoxin that can cause cardiovascular, neurologic, and renal dysfunction.

Causes

A germ called corynebacterium diphtheriae causes diphtheria, which infects the throat and sometimes the skin.

Diptheria is very contagious and can be passed from person to person through the tiny droplets in sneezes and coughs. It can be spread by touching anything that an infected person has used e.g. tissue, cup or by close, face-to-face contact.

The bacteria may increase or near the moist parts of the mouth and throat.

Symptoms

  • Sore throat
  • Low-grade fever
  • Dysphagia
  • Croupy cough (in children with laryngeal involvement)

Signs

  • Exudative membrane: a thin, leathery, exudative tonsillar, uvular, palatal, pharyngeal, or nasal membrane, varying in color from light gray to black, that may bleed profusely if removed, is the sine qua non of respiratory disease +++.
  • Intrinsic and extrinsic eye muscle dysfunction, dysphonia, or other signs of neurologic deficit may be present.

Treatment

Diphtheria antibiotics should be given immediately. Skin lesions need to be thoroughly and carefully cleaned. Other treatment will depend on the clinical status of the victim. It may be minimal or critical care may be required. Most need tube feedings and frequent suctioning. Some need a tracheostomy.

Strict bed rest is recommended for all those with diphtheria for at least 2 or 3 weeks, with heart monitoring at least several times a week for a month.

   
   

 
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