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Diphtheria is a highly contagious and potentially life-threatening infection. It is caused by a bacterium called Corynebacterium diphtheriae. The germ produces a toxin that can spread from the site of infection to other tissues in the body. Diphtheria usually affects the throat and nose. In serious cases, it may affect the nervous system and heart.
Diphtheria spreads easily from person to person by coughing or sneezing. People nearby breathe in the infected droplets. In rare cases, they come into direct contact with excretions from an infected person’s mouth, nose, throat, or skin.
Because of a widespread immunization program, diphtheria is now rare in the US.
Symptoms usually begin 2-4 days following exposure. Early symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Fever *...