diphtheria (dĬfthēr´ēə), acute contagious disease caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae (Klebs-Loffler bacillus) bacteria that have been infected by a bacteriophage. It begins as a soreness of the throat with fever. The bacteria lodge in the mucous membranes of the throat, producing virulent toxins that destroy the tissue. The resultant formation of a tough gray membrane is one of the most dangerous aspects of diphtheria, since it can spread to the larynx and cause suffocation. Deaths from diphtheria often result from inflammation of the heart. Diphtheria usually occurs in children of preschool age. Treatment with antitoxin is begun as early as possible. Penicillin or erythromycin is also given, particularly to guard against complicating factors such as pneumonia or streptococcal infection. Diphtheria was once a common and dreaded disease with a high mortality rate; it is now rare in countries where infants are vaccinated (see vaccination). Underimmunization, however, can lead to epidemics such as the one in Russia during 1994–95.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Diphtheria: Selected full-text books and articles

The Epidemic Streets: Infectious Disease and the Rise of Preventive Medicine, 1856-1900 By Anne Hardy Clarendon Press, 1993
Librarian's tip: Chap. 4 "Diphtheria"
Tomorrow's Cures Today? How to Reform the Health Research System By Donald R. Forsdyke Harwood Academic, 2000
Librarian's tip: Chap. 2 "The Slaughter of the Innocents: Diphtheria"
Immunization: The Reality behind the Myth By Walene James Bergin & Garvey, 1995 (2nd edition)
Librarian's tip: Chap. 3 "Are Immunizations Effective? (The Statistical Mill)"
The Vaccine Controversy: The History, Use, and Safety of Vaccinations By Kurt Link Praeger, 2005
Librarian's tip: Chap. 7 "Diphtheria Vaccine"
Living with Microbes By Swerdlow, Joel L.; Johnson, Ari D The Wilson Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 2, Spring 2002
In the Name of the Child: Health and Welfare, 1880-1940 By Roger Cooter Routledge, 1992
Librarian's tip: Chap. 5 "From Isolation to Therapy: Children's Hospitals and Diphtheria in Fin de Siecle Paris, London, and Berlin"
Mortality Rates 1910-1920 with Population of the Federal Censuses of 1910 and 1920 and Intercensal Estimates of Population By Richard Corcoran Lappin; William Horace Davis Government Printing Office, 1923
Librarian's tip: "Diphtheria and Croup" begins on p. 57
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