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What is diphtheria? 

Diphtheria is a bacterium that releases a toxin (poison) into the infected person’s body. Diphtheria affects the upper respiratory tract. A greyish coloured membrane forms at the back of the throat. The membrane can make it difficult to breathe or swallow. 

What are the signs and symptoms?

Signs and symptoms usually appear 1 to 10 days after contact with the bacterium, and include:

  • Sore throat
  • Mild fever
  • Chills
  • A thick gray coating at the back of the throat that makes it difficult to breathe or swallow

​Other areas of the body such as the nose, larynx, eyes, vagina, and skin can also be affected.

How is it spread?

Diphtheria can be spread:

  • From person-to-person through respiratory droplets from the nose and throat.
  • To others when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

How long is it contagious?

Diphtheria is contagious until the bacteria disappears from an infected persons discharges or lesions. This usually takes between 2 and 4 weeks with the proper antibiotic treatment.

Should I see a health care provider?

Yes, contact your health care provider if you think you or your child has diphtheria. 

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