What is Diphtheria?
Diphtheria is a bacterial infection of the nose and throat. Although it does not always cause symptoms, the disease is usually characterized by the appearance of gray membranes lining the throat and tonsils.
If left untreated, diphtheria bacteria can secrete toxins that can damage a number of organs, such as the heart, kidneys, or brain. Diphtheria is a dangerous and potentially life-threatening infectious disease, but can be prevented through immunization.
What is diphtheria caused by?
Diphtheria is caused by a bacterium called Corynebacterium diphtheria, which can spread from person to person.
A person can contract diphtheria if they accidentally inhale or swallow a splash of saliva that the sufferer emits when coughing or sneezing. Transmission can also occur through objects that have been contaminated with the patient’s saliva, such as glasses or spoons.
Diphtheria can be experienced by anyone. However, the risk of developing diphtheria will be higher if you do not get the complete diphtheria vaccine. In addition, diphtheria is also more at risk from people who:
- Living in a densely populated area or poor hygiene.
- Travel to the region where the diphtheria outbreak is taking place.
- Have low immunity, such as suffering from AIDS.
The doctor will diagnose diphtheria by conducting a medical interview, a physical examination to see the gray lining in the tonsils or in the throat as well as the enlargement of the lymph nodes in the neck, and supporting examination by examining tissue samples in the laboratory to confirm the diagnosis.
Some complications of diphtheria that can occur, among others:
Cells that die from toxins produced by diphtheria will form gray tissue. This tissue can inhibit breathing.
In addition to the lungs, diphtheria toxins have the potential to enter the heart and cause problems, such as damage to the heart muscle (myocarditis), irregular heartbeat, heart failure, and sudden death.
Nerve damage (polyneuropathy)
Diphtheria-causing bacterial toxins can also cause nerve damage. Usually, nerve damage occurs in the throat so the child becomes difficult to swallow.
Nerves in the arms and legs can also become inflamed and cause muscle weakness.
If the bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheriae damages the nerves that regulate the respiratory muscles, they will be paralyzed.
Usually, the disease will develop as follows:
- During the third week, there will be paralysis of the throat (pharynx).
- After the fifth week, paralysis occurs in the muscles of the eyes, limbs, and diaphragm.
- Pneumonia and respiratory failure can occur due to diaphragm paralysis.
With proper treatment, most people with diphtheria are able to survive the above complications.
However, his recovery was slow. Diphtheria is fatal in 3 percent of those suffering from the disease.
- Lung infections (pneumonia to respiratory failure); and
- Hypertoxic diphtheria that trigger bleeding and kidney failure.
Some of the treatment steps that will be done by the doctor, among others:
- Administration of antitoxins, to fight toxins produced by bacteria. Since not everyone’s body can receive antitoxins, the doctor will give antitoxins at low doses and increase the dose gradually. This will be done if the sufferer has an allergy to antitoxins.
- Administration of antibiotics to overcome infection under the supervision of a doctor.
- Recommended administration of diphtheria vaccine boosters after the patient returns to health, to build defenses against diphtheria.
Diphtheria can be prevented by immunization of DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus). This immunization is given five times from the age of two months to six years.
There are some side effects of this immunization. Some children will experience mild fever, fuss, weakness, and swelling in the injection area. Ask your doctor about what you need to do to minimize these side effects.