Diphtheria is a highly contagious bacterial infection that affects the nose and throat and can lead to difficulties in breathing and respiratory problems. In severe cases in unvaccinated individuals the disease can leade to respiratory and heart failure or a build up of toxins in the nervous system. The disease is spread through respiration droplets in sneezes and coughs.
Countries at risk Thanks to a very successful vaccination programme, the risk in England and other developed countries is very low. Diphtheria cases continue to be reported in South-East Asia, South America, Africa and India where vaccination programmes in childhood may not be as thorough as in other countries.
Diphtheria is a disease that is now rarely seen except in more developing countries such as in Africa and South Asia where fewer people are vaccinated against Diphtheria. It is very important to have good hand hygiene in places with higher risks of Diphtheria by washing your hands often with soap or hand sanitizer.
Diphtheria affects the respiratory system and the throat and therefore a large majority of the symptoms occur in this area of the body. Symptoms include a sore throat, breathing difficulties and a grey-white membrane developing in the throat. Other symptoms such as a heavy cough, bluish skin colorization and rapid/shallow breathing may also be noticed.
The childhood vaccination programmes includes a vaccine against Diphtheria, Tetanus & Polio. Once the childhood course is completed travelers need a booster every 10 years when planning on travel to higher risk areas.
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