Recognize and Beware of the Characteristics of Diphtheria Disease That Can Have Fatal Effects

Diphtheria is a scourge of a frightening disease that has plagued Indonesia since 2017. In severe cases, diphtheria can spread to other organs such as the skin, nervous system, even to the  heart . This infection can lead to death if not addressed immediately. Diphtheria is most fatal, especially if it occurs in children. Therefore, let’s recognize and be aware of the characteristics of diphtheria before it’s too late!

Diphtheria returned to epidemic because it did not vaccinate
Diphtheria is a contagious infection caused by orynebacterium c bacteria . Diphtheria is usually transmitted through direct contact with patients. Whether it’s direct skin contact by holding objects contaminated with diphtheria bacteria such as from glass or used tissue, or from breathing air containing particles of diphtheria bacteria. For example, after a person with diphtheria sneezes or coughs does not close his mouth, or throws snot carelessly.

In Indonesia, diphtheria is endemic because of our lack of awareness of the importance of diphtheria vaccination. People who have never received a diphtheria vaccine when they were young or who did not get a follow-up vaccine when they were adults were most at risk for transmission of diphtheria.

In addition, your risk of being infected with diphtheria may also increase if:

  • Visiting a country which is plagued by an epidemic of diphtheria
  • Has a weak body resistance or certain diseases that attack the immune system, such as AIDS.
  • Living in a densely populated environment with poor sanitation

What are the most common characteristics of diphtheria?

The characteristics of diphtheria usually do not appear immediately after you have been exposed to the bacteria for the first time. Symptoms of diphtheria generally only appear 2-5 days after someone is infected. This is because bacteria have multiplied in the body and begin to produce toxins.

Toxins will spread throughout the body through the bloodstream and cause typical symptoms of diphtheria, namely the appearance of a thick gray layer that covers the tongue to the inside of the nose, throat and respiratory tract.

The following are the characteristics of general diphtheria that you must pay attention to and be aware of:

  • Sore throat and hoarseness
  • Enlarged lymph nodes; neck looks swollen
  • Blocked nose; runny nose (runny nose)
  • Drool
  • Fever and chills
  • The body feels weak, aches, and aches (malaise)
  • Difficult to swallow
  • Coughing with a loud and hoarse voice

Diphtheria infection on the skin usually shows the characteristics of skin that is painful, swollen and reddish. It may also appear boils on the skin covered by a gray membrane.

Additional features of diphtheria can begin to appear when the infection develops more severely, including:

  • Difficulty breathing (shortness of breath or rapid breathing)
  • Change of vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Signs of shock, such as pale and cold skin (maybe blue), sweating, and a rapid heartbeat.

Children who have contracted diphtheria in the cavity behind their nose and mouth are more likely to show the following initial characteristics:

  1. Nausea and vomiting
  2. Shivering
  3. Headache
  4. Fever

Not everyone feels the symptoms of diphtheria

In some people, the characteristics of diphtheria are sometimes not obvious. There are also cases of diphtheria infection out there that only cause mild symptoms such as fever and regular sore throat like common flu symptoms.

Even so, it is important to understand that people infected with diphtheria can still transmit the disease to other healthy people up to 5-6 weeks after exposure to the initial infection even though they do not feel sick and do not show diphtheria characteristics at all.

Risk of complications of diphtheria if left untreated

Diphtheria is a contagious infection whose complications are very dangerous if not treated immediately. The risk of complications can arise when the poison of diphtheria bacteria has attacked vital organs such as the brain, nervous system, and heart.

Some possible complications of diphtheria are:

Myocarditis (heart damage). The more severe the rate of bacterial infection, the more severe the toxic effects on the heart’s work. Myocarditis can cause heart failure and complete heart block .
Neuritis (nerve damage). This complication is relatively rare and usually occurs after a severe respiratory infection caused by diphtheria. Diphtheria-related nerve damage can also result in severe muscle weakness. Respiratory problems related to complications of diphtheria are pneumonia and pulmonary failure due to nerve and muscle paralysis of the diaphragm. In severe cases, a ventilator may be needed to breathe.
Skin infections associated with diphtheria include eczema, psoriasis, or impetigo.
In severe cases, diphtheria can cause death. Therefore you should immediately see a doctor if you, a family member, or a small child at home have had contact with someone who is sick with diphtheria.

How to treat diphtheria?
Diphtheria treatment can be successful if the infection has been detected early. Here are two drugs commonly given to people with diphtheria:

Antitoxin drug also known as diphtheria antitoxin serum . Its function is to neutralize poisons produced by diphtheria-causing bacteria.
Antibiotic drug  erythromycin or penicillin to kill and stop the development of bacteria. The doctor will also do a bacterial test several times to make sure the antibiotic medication is working properly or not.
Diphtheria patients who experience acute respiratory problems will be quarantined in the hospital’s ICU to prevent the spread of the disease.

Prevention of diphtheria vaccine

Diphtheria can be prevented by giving diphtheria vaccine. There are three types of diphtheria vaccine , namely DPT-HB-Hib vaccine, DT vaccine, and Td vaccine. This vaccine is given 4 times, namely at the age of the child 2 months, 3 months, 4 months and 18 months.

  • According to the CDC , advanced diphtheria vaccine must be given again at the age of 19-64 years in one dose. Following is the schedule for giving diphtheria vaccine for adults:
  • Adults who have never received the Td vaccine can be given 1 dose of the Tdap vaccine followed by the Td vaccine as a booster every 10 years.
  • Adults who are not immunized at all , are given the first 2 doses at a distance of 4 weeks and a third dose is given after 6 to 12 months of the second dose.

Adults who have not completed three doses of the vaccine in the primary series are given less doses.
If you do not know whether you or your child has been given a diphtheria vaccine or not, also immediately consult a doctor.

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