Feeds

What is diptheria?

Atichoo!

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Also in this week's column:

What is diptheria?

Asked by Andrew Wallace of Edinburgh, Scotland

Most doctors in developed nations have never seen a diphtheria case. It's a wonderful thing that we've come so far. Sadly, diphtheria still regularly occurs in the Third World.

Diphtheria is an extremely contagious and often life-threatening infection that usually attacks the membranes of the throat and nose. Although usually confined to the upper respiratory tract, in the most serious cases it attacks the nervous system and the heart.

It is characterized by the formation of a tough membrane attached firmly to the underlying tissue that will bleed if forcibly removed. This is how diphtheria got its name as diphtheria is the Greek word for leather.

The infection begins in one tonsil and spreads to the other, the uvula, the soft palate, the pharyngeal wall, the larynx, the trachea, and the bronchial tree. Bronchial obstruction occurs and death is due to suffocation.

Diphtheria is very easily spread by an infected person coughing, sneezing, or breathing on a person. Early symptoms are a sore throat, a fever, and chills. Swallowing is difficult. But sometimes there are no symptoms for a considerable time. Yet during this time the infected person can spread the disease to others.

Diphtheria is caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae. If left untreated, this bacterium produces a powerful toxin that is carried in the bloodstream throughout the body. It can cause paralysis and heart failure.

Diphtheria was once a greatly feared disease and far more widespread. In the US in the 1920s, it struck about 150,000 people per year. About 10 per cent died. Babies and children were particularly vulnerable.

According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, there were 918 diphtheria cases in 1960, 435 in 1970, 98 in 1980, 91 in 1990, and 88 in 2000.

Diphtheria is the "D" in the DTP triple vaccine.

An account exists of the last major diphtheria epidemic in Sydney, Australia that took place in 1937. The disease advanced up the side of one street and down the other side killing nearly every child under age five.

Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Go beyond APM with real-time IT operations analytics
How IT operations teams can harness the wealth of wire data already flowing through their environment for real-time operational intelligence.
The total economic impact of Druva inSync
Examining the ROI enterprises may realize by implementing inSync, as they look to improve backup and recovery of endpoint data in a cost-effective manner.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.