Diphtheria; infection; child; immunisation; immunise; vaccination; vaccine ;
Diphtheria has been rarely seen in Australia since children and adults have been immunised against it (immunisation was started in the 1890s but it was not until the 1940s that immunisation became widespread in Australia).
It was a serious disease which was sometimes the cause of death of several children in a family within a few days or weeks of each other. In the early 1900s diphtheria caused more deaths in Australia than any other infectious disease. There are still occasional cases of diphtheria in Australia where most children are immunised, but in countries where the immunisation programs are not working well (often due to war or extreme poverty) diphtheria has become a serious problem again.
- Diphtheria is an infection caused by bacteria (Corynebacterium diphtheriae).
- It usually affects the throat, tonsils and nose.
- A white or grey-looking membrane (which which starts off looking like a spider web) forms on the back of the throat or in the nose and causes problems with breathing.
- The membrane is stuck on and trying to remove it causes bleeding and does not help as the membrane just comes back.
- Some types of the bacteria also produce a toxin (poison) which can affect other parts of the body such as the brain and the heart.
- In Australia about 10% of children (or adults) who get diphtheria still die from it.
the spread of diphtheria
- Making sure that the whole population is immunised is the only effective way of stopping the spread of diphtheria.
- Children receive 4 doses of vaccine before the age of 5 years, then one around the age of 15. Adults need another dose when they are 50 years old. (See the topic 'Immunisation' for more information).
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.