Introduction to Diphtheria, it's symptoms and how it transmits:

Diphtheria is a bacterial infection caused by bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheria. This infection causes respiratory problems like difficulty in breathing, sore throat, and swollen glands in the neck as it covers the back of the throat with a sheet of thick & gray matter. Basically, there are two types of Diphtheria:

  • Respiratory Diphtheria:-  This Diphtheria affects the nose, tonsils, and throat.

  • Cutaneous [Skin] Diphtheria:- This can affect the skin.

Diphtheria can lead to paralysis, heart failure, and even death if it is not properly treated. In advance stages of Diphtheria, it can damage the kidneys’ function and nervous system. To prevent Diphtheria, one should get vaccinated.

What are the symptoms of Diphtheria?

Mainly, Diphtheria affects the respiratory functions and an individual with this bacterial infection may show the following symptoms after 2-5 days of contact with the bacteria:

  • Coughing/ Runny nose/ Sore throat; Fever/ Body chills; Fatigue/ Muscle weakness; Enlarged glands in the neck; Rashes/Ulcers; Impaired voice; Difficulty swallowing

How Diphtheria can transmit?

Diphtheria spreads or transmits from one person to another through:

  • Infected respiratory droplets by coughing or sneezing

  • Touching open pores of the skin [skin lesions]

  • Coming in contact with the objects that are being in contact with the bacteria

 How does Diphtheria affect born babies?

In most of the reported newborn babies or infant Diphtheria cases, the infection has been transmitted from the mother. In newborn babies, Diphtheria can cause:

  • Nasal regurgitation

  • Vascular failure [abnormal condition of blood vessels]

  • Palatal paralysis

  • Lethargic [state of tiredness and weakness/lack of energy] 

  • Gray and thick matter covering the tonsils

Is Diphtheria fatal for born babies?

Diphtheria can be treated and is preventable with proper medications and vaccines. However, if the newborn babies who have Diphtheria are left untreated or not vaccinated, they may suffer from severe respiratory problems, heart damage, and even death. As reported by WHO, in 2008, India had 3,977 Diphtheria patients including newborn babies. This number has grown 2x in the recent past and reached over 8,788 cases in 2018. To prevent and cure Diphtheria, one should get vaccinated and have a strong immune system. 

 Can pregnant mothers take a vaccine for Diphtheria?

Yes, pregnant mothers can get vaccinated against Diphtheria. During the early part of 3rd trimester of every pregnancy, pregnant women should get Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis [Tdap] vaccine. By doing so, she protects the baby mainly from whooping cough (also known as Pertussis) during the first few months of life.

When babies & children should get vaccinated for Diphtheria?

Four [4] types of vaccines are being used nowadays to protect against Diphtheria and they are:

  • Diphtheria and Tetanus [DT] vaccines

  • Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis [DTaP] vaccines

  • Tetanus and Diphtheria [Td] vaccines

  • Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis [Tdap] vaccines

 Babies need 3 shots of DTap vaccines to build high levels of protection against Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis [whooping cough]. Younger children can get booster shots to maintain protection throughout early childhood. Recommended ages for the shots are:

  • 2 months

  • 4 months

  • 6 months

  • 15-18 months

  • 4-6 years

 Children who are allergic or have a bad reaction to DTaP can receive DT alone. This does not protect them from whooping cough.