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What should I know about Diphtheria and the vaccination for it?

Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection, caused by the bacterium Corn bacterium diphtheriae. It is spread by coughing and sneezing, and leads to a potentially fatal respiratory infection, that can cause your child to have difficulty breathing. It has a two to five day incubation period, after first exposure.

Diphtheria usually starts with a sore throat, and is accompanied by other symptoms, like fever, vomiting and nausea, and headaches. Left untreated, diphtheria can be fatal, and can lead to more serious infections, like toxic diphtheria of the larynx, diphtheric myocarditis, which is a heart infection, and neuritis, which is a nerve disease.

The bacteria that causes diphtheria usually creates a grey membrane like substance over inflamed areas, and it’s this that causes the difficulty in breathing. It can also, if left untreated for two to six weeks, cause permanent nerve damage, or a potentially fatal inflammation of the heart muscle.

Because it’s so dangerous, it’s important that your child is vaccinated against diphtheria, and that you avoid any close contact with people who may be infected. That includes sharing eating utensils, glasses and other items. If you suspect your child has been infected, it’s important to seek medical care within 24 hours, which will include a course of strong antibiotics.

Diphtheria is one of the diseases that are vaccinated against when your child receives the 6 in 1 vaccination, and that vaccination will protect 95 percent of the people who receive it. However, even vaccinated people and children can be carriers of the bacteria, so it’s important to avoid contact with anyone who may have been in contact with it, particularly if you have an as yet unvaccinated baby.

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