Diphtheria is a disease caused by bacteria. It is highly contagious & dangerous, especially if it is allowed to develop. The disease is caught through intimate physical contact with an infected person, contact with their bedding or clothing, or by inhaling the particles of their sneezes & coughs.
It is more common in parts of Africa, South Asia, & the former Soviet Union where diphtheria vaccination is rare.
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Commonly affected locations
Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, the Middle East, parts of South East Asia & South America
The main symptom of diphtheria is a thick, greyish-white coating that covers the tonsils & back of the throat, which can obstruct breathing. If this disease affects the skin (cutaneous diphtheria), it can cause pus-filled spots to develop on the limbs & hands, which may turn into ulcers & leave scarring.
- sore throat
- difficult or painful swallowing
- a fever of 38C (100.4F) or higher
- exhaustion or fatigue
- bloody or foul-smelling nasal discharge
- swollen glands in the neck
- cyanosis (bluish skin)