Diphtheria is caused by a bacterium that secretes a poison. The venom can damage many of the body’s organs, such as the heart and kidneys. The disease infects only humans, through contact with saliva. Diphtheria is a life-threatening disease if you do not receive treatment.

You can protect yourself from diphtheria with vaccination.

Diphtheria is most common in Africa and Southeast Asia. No one has been infected with diphtheria many countries for the past 25 years, but some single travelers have fallen ill after staying abroad.

Symptoms of diphtheria

Diphtheria usually begins with a throat infection and is similar to throat flux with fever and difficulty swallowing. After a couple of days, it is common for you to cough and persistent blood-curdling and difficult to breathe.

You can also get a skin rash, so-called skin diphtheria. It is a less serious form of the disease and can be treated with antibiotics.

When should I seek care?

Seek immediate care if you have the following symptoms of diphtheria:

  • Sore throat and fever for three to four days.
  • Hard to swallow or breathe.

Then diphtheria is infected

Diphtheria only infects humans through contact with saliva. The bacterium can spread through kisses. You can also be infected if, for example, you drink from the same glass or bottle as an infected person. It is unusual for a person with diphtheria to infect someone outside the immediate circle of friends and family.

From being infected until you get sick, it usually takes two to five days. But you can be a carrier for several months without getting sick.

Treatment of diphtheria

You who are infected or ill receive treatment of diphtheria in hospitals with antibiotics.

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