Diphtheria Vaccine Questions and Answers
Do you require a diphtheria vaccine? Talk to our team of healthcare professionals today at Reddy Urgent Care. For more information, call us now. We have 4 convenient locations in Downtown Long Beach CA, Bixby Knolls Long Beach CA, Huntington Beach CA, and Paramount CA. We are open 7 days a week.
What causes diphtheria?
Diphtheria is caused by a bacterial infection that typically affects the mucous membranes in the nose and throat. Diphtheria is spread through airborne droplets, such as a cough or sneeze from an infected person. It is easily spread, particularly in crowded spaces. It can also be spread by touch, through the handling of contaminated objects such as tissues or towels, or by touching an infected wound. Thanks to widespread vaccinations against diphtheria, it has been pretty much eradicated in the United States and other developed countries, with cases being very rare. While it can be treated with medications, it can be very deadly, particularly in children. If contracted and left untreated, in advanced stages diphtheria can cause damage to your kidneys, heart and nervous system. Like any illness, diphtheria can present itself differently from one infected individual to the next. Symptoms of diphtheria can include a thick, grey membrane on the throat and tonsils, sore throat and hoarse voice, swollen neck glands, difficulty or rapid breathing, nasal discharge, fever and chills, and malaise. In others, there may be only a minor illness or no symptoms or signs of illness at all. Individuals who are infected with diphtheria can spread the illness to other people, regardless of if they have symptoms or not. Diphtheria can also form on the skin, although this is more common in tropical climates. In the US it is typically found on people living in crowded, unclean spaces where poor hygiene is a common problem. On the skin, diphtheria shows up through redness and swelling that are similar to bacterial skin infections, as well as pain. Affected individuals may also experience ulcers on their skin that are covered by a gray membrane.
Why is diphtheria vaccine given?
Diphtheria has been around for roughly 100 years and had a high rate of illness and death among young children. Due to the high death rate among children, a vaccine was developed and has been widely distributed since the 1920’s and 1930’s, when the disease was at its peak. While older children and adults did have cases of death from diphtheria infections, the highest death rate was in children younger than five years of age. Thanks to the widespread availability and distribution of the vaccine, today diphtheria cases are very rare, with the disease being more or less eradicated from the United States and other developed countries. Vaccinations provide people with immunity against potentially life-threatening illnesses, not just for the individuals receiving the vaccine but for those people who are immunocompromised and not able to receive vaccinations. Herd immunity keeps those without vaccines safe but only when a high percentage of the population has received vaccines.
Can adults get diphtheria?
Individuals of any age, including adults, can become infected with diphtheria. However, when diphtheria cases were at their peak in the 1920’s and 1930’s, the highest death rate was among children five years of age and younger. So, while adults can get diphtheria and had a lower death rate during the peak, they were able to pass the illness on to children who were at a higher risk of serious illness. Diphtheria can present differently in infected people, much like any other illness or disease. This means that while some people will show very telltale symptoms of the illness, others may be infected by the illness and not even know it as they may have mild symptoms or no symptoms. Even if an individual doesn’t show symptoms while they have the illness, they are still infectious and can pass the illness on to other people who may have more severe outcomes. Thankfully the diphtheria vaccine has provided immunity to the majority of people in developed countries and for countries such as the United States, cases of diphtheria are extremely rare. If you have any more questions, call us now.
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