Diphtheria is a life-threatening infection that spreads very easily. It is caused by bacteria. The infection most commonly attacks the mucus membranes (the tonsils, throat, and nose). It can also infect the skin. Some types of the bacteria can also cause damage to the heart, nerves, kidneys, and brain.
Diphtheria is a medical emergency that requires immediate care from your doctor. Not everyone who gets diphtheria shows signs of illness, though they may be able to infect others. The sooner it is treated, the better the outcome will be.
Diphtheria is caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheriae . The infection spreads from person to person through contact with:
- Droplets of moisture that are coughed or sneezed into the air by an infected person and breathed in by a noninfected person
- Personal items, such as tissues or drinking glasses, that have been used by an infected person
- Skin that is infected with diphtheria
Factors that increase your chance of getting a diphtheria include:
- Having never been immunized against diphtheria
- Not having had a booster dose in the past ten years
- Having a compromised immune system