Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection that usually attacks the mucous membranes of the nose, tonsils, and throat. Diphtheria usually causes a sore throat, fever, swollen lymph nodes and weakness. But the hallmark is a thick layer of gray tissue covering the neck that blocks the airways and causes problems in breathing. Diphtheria is extremely rare in the United States and other developed countries because of a common vaccine against this disease. Medications are available for the treatment of diphtheria. However, at an advanced stage, diphtheria can damage the heart, kidneys and nervous system. Even today diphtheria can be fatal - 3% of people with diphtheria die. The rate is higher in children under 15 years old.
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