Alarming pockets of diphtheria outbreaks have been occurring worldwide recently.
Diphtheria is a bacterial infection, caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae. It is transmitted person to person, via respiratory droplets and close physical contact. After exposure, you can develop symptoms in 1-10 days, which include mild fever, sore throat, difficulty swallowing and hoarseness. The distinctive feature is a firm, grey, adherent pseudomembrane that appears in 2-3 days over the tonsils, pharynx, nostrils or larynx, and can extend into the trachea. It can obstruct airways and become fatal if not treated.
In Venezuela this year, more than 510 cases have been reported. In Yemen, there have been 118 cases, including 11 deaths, reported in November alone. Previously, Yemen did not have a case since 2012! In Haiti, there have been 120 cases in 2017.
This is a vaccine preventable disease, and one all of us should be vaccinated against. Diphtheria vaccines are included in combination with Tetanus shots (Tetanus/Diphtheria or Tetanus/Diphtheria/Pertussis) and conjugated to some Meningitis vaccines. If one stays up to date on their Tetanus immunizations, which is recommended every 10 years throughout the adult life, they will be protected against Diphtheria as well.