Health and MedicineDiseasesDiphtheria: symptoms, causes and treatment

Diphtheria: symptoms, causes and treatment

Diphtheria is an infectious disease that can be mild or severe. Discover the symptoms it causes, what its causes are and what medical treatment is followed for its cure.

A few days ago we learned that after almost 30 years (28 to be precise), the first case of diphtheria since 1987 had been registered. It happened in Loot, where a 6-year-old boy is admitted to the ICU in serious condition after being diagnosed with diphtheria.

As we told you, this is the first case of this serious infectious disease detected in our country since 1987. And as confirmed by the Generalist’s Health Department itself, the minor was not vaccinated, despite the fact that the Immunization against this disease is effectively achieved through vaccination.

Diphtheria is an acute infectious disease caused by the spread of the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheria, also known as the Klebs-Löfflerbacillus, which was originally discovered in 1884 by Edwin Krebs (pathologist) and by Friedrich Loffler(bacteriologist). It is a non-encapsulated bacillus, lacking mobility and non-sporulation, which forms cultures with branched clusters.

How is diphtheria spread? What are your causes?

It is an acute infection that spreads through respiratory droplets generated by sneezing or coughing from an infected person, or from someone who carries the bacteria but has no symptoms.

An infected person can spread diphtheria for up to two weeks after becoming infected, so prevention after infection is essential to prevent the spread of the disease.

This bacillus causes an infection that affects the upper respiratory tract (nose and throat), and can in turn cause damage to other organs, such as the brain and heart.

In relation to the causes of diphtheria, we must highlight the presence of a series of risk factors that influence its appearance/contagion: lack of vaccines or lack of vaccination, overcrowded environments and poor hygiene.

What are the symptoms of diphtheria?

The symptoms begin to appear between days 1 to 7 after the bacteria enters the body of the infected person (that is, between the first and seventh days).

Its symptoms are actually very broad causing: sore throat, skin ulcers, breathing problems, bluish skin discoloration, chills, and croup-like cough, drooling when airway obstruction is about to occur, fever, hoarseness and pain when swallowing.

Characteristic of this infection is the appearance of a kind of pseudo membrane or gray to black, hard and fibrous cover capable of obstructing the respiratory tract. However, when diphtheria infects the skin it first causes skin lesions.

How is the treatment of diphtheria?

The most effective treatment consists of the administration of diphtheria antitoxin, which is administered as an intramuscular injection, or through an intravenous line. Once the antitoxin is administered, the infection is treated with antibiotics (such as erythromycin and penicillin).

It is very common that a stay in the hospital is recommended in order to administer oxygen if necessary, monitor the heart and correct possible airway obstructions.

Diphtheria can be mild or severe, so that people can die, especially when the disease affects the heart. Therefore, vaccination of children is essential for its prevention, since when injected it activates the body’s natural defenses against it.

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