“The National Reference Laboratory has confirmed two cases of diphtheria caused by C. diphtheriae (that is, a type of bacteria transmitted primarily from person to person) in two childhood siblings. Another case in an elderly patient is caused by C. ulcerans (in this case it is a type of bacteria that can also be transmitted by animals),” informed Jana Zavadilová, head of the National Reference Laboratory (NRL) for pertussis and diphtheria of the SZÚ.
In our territory, diphtheria did not occur for many years thanks to vaccination, which was started as early as 1946.
“The risk of infection generally increases with age, with a decrease in protective antibodies after vaccination, and is mostly related to contact with unvaccinated persons or traveling abroad,” reminded Kateřina Fabiánová, Department of Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases of the SZÚ.
According to the available data, post-vaccination immunity is decreasing in the European population, which is also evidenced by the increase in cases recorded for example in Austria, Germany, Great Britain and Switzerland.
Therefore, the World Health Organization recommends that the existing child population, which is vaccinated against diphtheria between the ages of 10 and 11, be revaccinated in adulthood.
Diphtheria is spread by droplets, the source of infection is usually contact with a bacillus carrier, which can be not only a person but also an animal, as was the case with the patient from Vysočina.
A woman from Vysočina contracted diphtheria from a pet
If the infection is caught in time, it is easily treatable with antibiotics.
It is usually accompanied by fever, weakness and a sore throat, and over time, whitish-yellow infected spots appear on the mucous membrane, so-called papules, which cannot be removed without damaging the tissue. Without timely treatment, damage to the heart, kidneys and nerve fibers can occur.
The laryngeal form of diphtheria used to be a dreaded disease in infants and young children, beginning with wheezing and a barking cough.
Suffocation also occurred due to the spread of blisters and large swellings of the lower respiratory tract. The last death from diphtheria in what was then Czechoslovakia was recorded in 1969.
“The nasal form of the infection is milder and is manifested by bloody or purulent secretions and puffiness in the nasal mucosa. The skin form of diphtheria usually manifests itself as painless swellings or ulcers that heal poorly, and it occurs especially in countries with low vaccination rates,” reminded the SZÚ.