Diphtheria – Dominican Republic

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Twelve people were infected with diphtheria were infected in Dominican Republic.

Symptoms include difficulty breathing, heart failure, kidney failure, paralysis, and even death. Even with proper treatment, about 10% of people with respiratory diphtheria will die. Without treatment, up to half of the patients can die from the disease.

Dominican Republic confirmed 12 cases including 9 deaths, and Haiti confirmed 11 cases including 2 deaths. Anyone who is unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated against diphtheria is at risk of getting sick.

Photo: Corynebacterium diphtheriae, Gram stained.

Diphtheria is an infection caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae. Signs and symptoms may vary from mild to severe. They often come on fairly gradually, beginning with a sore throat and fever. In severe cases, a grey or white patch develops in the throat and there is a risk of the airway being blocked. The neck may swell in part due to enlarged lymph nodes. A form of diphtheria which involves the skin, eyes or genitals also exists.

Diphtheria is usually spread between people by direct contact or through the air. Contaminated objects may also spread the disease. Some people carry the bacterium without having symptoms, but can still spread the disease to others.

A diphtheria vaccine is effective for prevention and recommended during childhood.

Diphtheria currently occurs most often in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Indonesia. In areas where it is still common, children are most affected.

The disease is rare in the developed world due to widespread vaccination but can re-emerge if vaccination rates decrease.

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