What does the word diphtheria mean?
A constitutional, febrile, infectious disease due to the Bacillus diphtherise( D. bacillus), and characterized by the formation of patches of exudation and infiltration upon and in the substance of mucous membranes and the tissues lining raw surfaces. The chief mucous membranes affected are those of the pharynx( Pharyngeal d., Diphtherial pharyngitis, Diphtherial tonsillitis), larynx( Laryngeal d., Diphtherial laryngitis, Membranous croup), nose, eyelids( Diphtherial conjunctivitis), and vulva. The affected parts are covered with white or grayish patches formed by a false membrane which is either superficial( croupous membrane) or in the severe cases deep and detached with difficulty( diphtheritic membrane). The underlying tissues are filled with a cellular exudate, often so voluminous as to compress the vessels and thus produce anaemia and sloughing. These effects are due to a specific poison( D. toxin), produced by the Dacillus. The action of this toxin is very intense, but mainly local. The action of the bacilli favors the development of other bacteria( streptococci, staphylococci, and pneumococci), producing soon a mixed infection leading to general sepsis( Septic d.). D. is very contagious, and tends to spread from one part of the body to another, especially attacking any raw surface. The local symptoms are those produced by the swelling and subsequent sloughing; e. g., in the pharynx, dysphagia; in thelarynx, aphonia, stridulousrespiraion, and dyspnoea; in the eye, deformity of the lids from cicatricial contraction, and opacity and suppuration of the cornea. The general symptoms are ansemia, prostration( often extreme), irregular but usually moderate fever, albuminuria, and rarely delirium. D. lasts from a few days to a week or two. It is frequently fatal, death occurring from asthenia or( in laryngeal and pharyngeal d.) from asphyxia. Recovery is slow, and sequels, especially muscular weakness or paralysis( Diphtherial paralysis), which is usually temporary in character, are frequent. Treatment of d.: injection of serum of immunized animals( D. antitoxin), especially before mixed infection has taken place; supporting measures, local antiseptics and antiphlogistics. Scarlatinal d., a disease, especially a membranous tonsiliris, occurring in scarlet fever and caused by streptococci. Animal d., a generic term for true d. produced by Bacillus diphtheriae in cats and guinea-pigs, and for affections, more or less like true d., produced in birds, rabbits, and calves by Bacillus diphtheriae avium, Bacillus diphtheriae columbarum. Bacillus diphtheriae cuniculi, and Streptotnrix cuniculi. See Bacillus and Streptothrix.
Usage examples for diphtheria
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