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Diseases Affecting the Respiratory System – Diptheria

Diptheria is  an acute contagious disease characterized by a generalized systematic toxemia emanating from a localized inflammatory focus. Infants born of immunie mothers remain immune for the first 6 months of life.  One attack does not necessarily lifelong immunity

Causative agent: Corynebacterium diphtheriae, also called Klebs-Loffler bacillus

  • Very resistant to oridinary conditions of environment and disinfectants
  • Readily killed by boiling and will die in 3 minutes
  • Its exotoxin produces the disease after it gets into the bloodstream

Incubation Period: 1-7 days

Period of Communicability: 2 weeks or less, seldom more than 4 weeks, for as long as bacilli are found in the discharge and lesion.

Mode of Transmission: Direct contact with contaminated secretions discharged from the respiratory passages or the saliva of the diphtheria carrier or patient; Indirect transmission from drinking fountains, cups, toilet seats, toys and infected mil supplies.

Diagnostics/Laboratory Exams
Shick Test

  • To determine immunity or susceptibility to diphtheria
  • Consists of injecting 1/50 minimum lethal dose (MLD) of diphtheria toxin 10 0.1 or 0.2 ml of NSS intra-dermally

Interpretation of results
> Shick-negative: immune to diphtheria
> Shick positive: large red area, sometimes with a central blister, within 24-48 hours, means susceptibility (not immune) to diphtheria


  • To determine hypersensitivity to diphtheria

Nose and Throat Swab

  • To determine presence of microorganism and if patient is still communicable

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