Diphtheria is a disease caused by bacteria, & is highly contagious & dangerous, especially if it is allowed to develop. It 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.
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.
Other symptoms of diphtheria include:
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)