Diphtheria is an acute infectious disease caused by bacteria named ‘Croynebacterium diphtheria’. The incubation period for this disease in short varies from 2 to 5 days, but it may be longer. However, the infective period continues up till 14 to 28 days after the onset of the disease.
The symptoms will vary depending on the place of lesien, in the mouth or throat. In the beginning, the child has fever, looks sick, has a hoarse voice and coughs; she/he has difficulty in swallowing even liquids. The throat becomes swollen. Within 2-3 days, the child finds it difficult to breathe; the breathing is similar to snoring and foul smells. The nails and tongue may turn blue due to difficult breathing. A white membrane forms on the tonsils, Paralysis of the various parts of the body may occur after 3 weeks of acute stage. The child may die due to paralysis of the heart.
Mode of spread
The bacteria exist in the throat and nose of a person suffering from it. The bacteria are expelled when a person talks, coughs, sneezes or spits. These bacteria enter a healthy child when she/he comes in their direct contact.
A child suffering from diphtheria must be isolated. He should be allowed for absolute rest to minimise the hazards of cardiac and other complications. Fluid diet is advisable to give till the throat is clear. However, a child suffering from diphtheria should be admitted in a hospital immediately, Delay in treatment may kill the child.
A child should be given DPT vaccine at 1 1/2, 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 months of age and a booster does within 18-24 months age.