Diphtheria is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium corynebacterium diphtheria. This disease affects the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract and can also affect the skin (cutaneous diphtheria), including the lining tissues in the ear, eye, and genital areas. Diphtheria was discovered in the 1880s, it was the leading cause of children’s death in many parts of the world, it was also known as “The Strangling Angel of Children”. Although diphtheria affects younger children it has also been known to attack adults and adolescents due to unvaccinated or inadequately immunized people. The first vaccine was developed in the 1920s making a major decrease in many parts of the world and has now become a rare disease in the United States, with up to five cases per year. Diphtheria is caused by toxin producing strains of the gram positive bacillus corynebacterium diphtheria; there are four different biotypes of bacterium: gravis, mitis, intermedias, and belfanti. Signs and symptoms of respiratory diphtheria are caused by the bacterium’s ability to cause a localized inflammatory reaction of the cells lining the upper respiratory tract. This can cause the disease to become more severe and widespread in some cases causing it to involve other organs in the body as well. Certain signs and symptoms to look for are as follows: sore throat, fever, malaise, hoarseness, difficulty breathing or swallowing, if the victim has a severe case of diphtheria they may also develop a neck swell and enlarged lymph nodes, making the person appear to have what is known as a “bull neck”. This can also cause systemic disease causing problems such as inflammation of the heart and neurologic problems such as muscle weakness, vision problems, and paralysis. The diagnosis of diphtheria is conducted by isolation of bacterium corynebacterium diphtheriae. Diagnostics test the bacterium involved by taking cultures of the nose and throat in anyone who is suspected of diphtheria, the...
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