Diphtheria is a disease that is seen more commonly in Third World countries. It is an infection caused by an organism called, Corynebacterium diphtheria. The bacteria liberate a toxin which is responsible for the formation of a grayish or yellowish membrane “Pseudo or false membrane” i.e. the membrane cannot be wiped away, commonly over the tonsils, pharynx or larynx (or at the site of implantation). It also causes the upper respiratory tract to become swollen and edematous. The associated lymph nodes in the neck region get enlarged. If left untreated, the disease could be fatal.
Diphtheria is a rare disease in most developed countries thanks mainly to the routine vaccination of children. Some of the more recent epidemics seen in the countries that constituted the erstwhile Soviet Union, was largely due to decreasing immunization coverage among infants and children, which may have been due to the non–availability of the vaccine in these areas.
Problem of Diphtheria in India Diphtheria continues to make its presence felt in India. It is still endemic to India. The available retrospective data indicates a declining trend of the occurrence of diphtheria. In 1995, about 1,257 cases of diphtheria were reported.