What is diphtheria?

Diphtheria or diphtheria is a contagious infectious disease affecting mainly the upper respiratory tract. It is characterized by sore throat, increased body temperature and the formation of plaque on the tonsils and nasopharynx. Diphtheria can also affect the skin and cause local skin infections – cutaneous diphtheria.

More severe cases of diphtheria can cause systemic symptoms and affect other organs and systems such as the heart and nervous system, which in rare cases can cause death. Diphtheria is caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae.

What are the symptoms of diphtheria?

Symptoms appear within 2-5 days of exposure to the diphtheria bacteria, although some people develop diphtheria asymptomatically. Symptoms of diphtheria respiratory system can be:

  • Sore throat;
  • Fever;
  • Hoarse voice;< /li>
  • Difficulty swallowing;
  • Physical discomfort;
  • Fatigue;
  • Headache and cough;
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck and neck, causing them to swell;
  • Purulent or blood-tinged discharge from the nose;
  • Difficult breathing.

When the diphtheria of the respiratory system progresses, sufferers may develop the “classic” thick, gray plaque that forms over the mucous membranes of the tonsils, pharynx and/or nasal cavity.

Increasing the size of this pseudomembrane and reaching the larynx and trachea can lead to airway obstruction with subsequent suffocation and death.

The systemic symptoms of diphtheria are the result of the action of the diphtheria toxin and its subsequent spread to other organs that are far from the usual focus of infection.

The heart and nervous system are most often affected, leading to complications such as inflammation of the heart – myocarditis, muscle weakness, numbness and visual changes.

What are the causes?

Diphtheria is caused by Corynebacteriumdiphtheriae, which is a gram-positive bacillus.

There are three biotypes of the bacterium – gravis, mitis and intermedius – that are capable of causing diphtheria. Depending on the biotype that causes diphtheria, the severity of the disease also varies.

The bacterium causes diphtheria as a result of its invasion of the tissues of the throat and begins to release a toxin that breaks the integrity of the tissues and leads to the formation of the characteristic plaque.

Treatment of diphtheria

Basic treatment for diphtheria consists of diphtheria antitoxin, antibiotics, and supportive care. If diphtheria is suspected, treatment should be started as quickly as possible, even before the final diagnosis is made after the results of the tests.

People with suspected diphtheria should be isolated to prevent possible spread of the disease.

Effective treatment of diphtheria begins with the administration of antitoxin, which neutralizes the circulating diphtheria toxin and limits the development of the disease.

But it is not effective when the toxin has already bound to body tissues. People who are infected but do not show symptoms usually do not need antitoxin and are treated with antibiotics.

The antibiotics erythromycin or penicillin can quickly destroy the causative bacteria and stop the release of new amounts of toxin. Administration of antibiotics prevents transmission of the bacteria to others.

Diphtheria maintenance treatment may also be required. Obstruction of the airways by the increased plaque can lead to suffocation attacks and even death, requiring the insertion of a breathing tube.

How to protect yourself from diphtheria?

The most effective way to protect against diphtheria is immunization with a vaccine that offers immune protection against this dangerous pathogen.

In Bulgaria, as in many other countries around the world, vaccination against diphtheria is carried out as part of the mandatory immunization calendar, which provides free vaccination to children and adults.

Diphtheria is caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae and is transmitted primarily through droplets from the sneeze or cough of an infected person.

Symptoms of diphtheria include a sore throat, high fever, difficulty breathing, feeling tired and weak. The disease can also affect other organs such as the heart and kidneys, making vaccination even more important.

The combined DPF vaccine, which is used in Bulgaria, contains components that provide immune protection against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough.

This vaccine is called the DTP vaccine and is given at regular intervals during childhood and then at certain times throughout life.

Vaccination with DTP vaccine not only protects against diphtheria, but also against other serious infections such as tetanus and whooping cough.

The diphtheria vaccine creates immunity that helps the body fight off the bacteria if exposed to it.

This immunity is built up after a series of vaccinations during childhood and subsequent booster doses during adulthood. The diphtheria vaccination process is important not only for individuals but also for society as a whole.

Besides vaccination, there are other ways you can protect yourself from diphtheria:

  1. Hygiene measures: Regular hand washing with soap and water, as well as avoiding contact with infected persons, can reduce the risk of infection.

  2. Prophylactic antibiotics: If you have been exposed to diphtheria, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection from developing.

  3. Healthy Lifestyle: Maintaining a strong immune system through proper nutrition, physical activity and adequate sleep can help your body fight infections more effectively .

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