Any person with high temperature that is fever of more than 38 degree centigrade or 100.4 degree Fahrenheit, a grey-white coating (membrane) inside the throat that may cover the back of throat and tonsils, and can obstruct breathing; along with any of the following symptoms: chills, fatigue, sore throat, hoarse voice, cough, headache, difficulty swallowing or pain when swallowing, difficulty breathing, foul-smelling bloodstained nasal discharge, swollen glands (nodes) in the neck, pale, blue skin… if present… can be suffering from Diphtheria.Diphtheria was one of the leading causes of childhood death in the pre-vaccine era. However, after the diphtheria toxoid vaccine was invented in 1923, and subsequently was used on a large scale globally, incidence of Diphtheria quickly declined. However, there have been a number of reports of re-emergence or persistence of diphtheria in several Indian states. According to the World Health Organization, 3,380 cases have been reported in India in 2016.
Diphtheria is caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheria. The bacterium causes disease by invading the tissues lining the throat and producing diphtheria toxin, a substance which destroys the tissue and leads to the development of the adherent pseudo membrane characteristic of respiratory diphtheria. The diphtheria toxin may be absorbed and disseminated via the blood and lymphatic system to other organs distant from the initial infection, leading to more severe systemic complications. Diphtheria is transmitted by infected individuals and asymptomatic carriers (individuals who are infected but do not exhibit symptoms). Transmission occurs via inhalation of airborne respiratory secretions or by direct contact with infected nasopharyngeal secretions or skin wounds. Rarely, infection can be spread by contact with objects contaminated by an infected person. Individuals exposed to diphtheria begin to experience symptoms between two to five days after the initial infection.
Whatever the status of symptoms, it is always necessary to consult qualified health care professional for management.Diphtheria is not a disease that can be managed at home. If anyone has suspected diphtheria, they should seek prompt medical evaluation.
Management of Diphtheria at the health care facility consists of any or all of the listed points (ONE) presumptive diagnosis of Measles based on symptoms diagnosis; (TWO) diagnosis of diphtheria by taking a sample of cells from the throat, nose or wound on the skin; (THREE) treatment with diphtheria antitoxin, antibiotics, and supportive care including insertion of a breathing tube and cardiac monitoring. Patients with suspected diphtheria should be placed in isolation in order to prevent transmission of the disease to others.
The most effective way to prevent Diphtheria is through immunization. Diphtheria toxoid vaccine is generally combined with the tetanus and pertussis vaccine. Because of widespread vaccination of children, Diphtheria occurs much less often than in the past. As with all other contagious illnesses, covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing and good hand-washing practices will help prevent the spread of the diseases. If affected with Diphtheria it is necessary not to be in contact with people, especially vulnerable people like children, pregnant women.Elimination of pathogen reservoir where the bacteria, viruses and parasites breed and multiply, educating people and health workers on early identification and faster management as we are trying through this video series will also probably help in the prevention of Diphtheria.
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