Contagious Diseases – Early Diagnosis Important In Treatment Of Diphtheria

The child of from three to five years who shows lassitude and a lack of interest in play, possibly complains of a little sort throat, possibly has a little fever—once more at this season let us remind ourselves of the necessity of determining early whether a child with such symptoms has diphtheria or not.

Diphtheria, according to the text books on medicine, is particularly likely to occur in epidemic form during dry seasons. The dry, mild winter which often prevails up to the present time in most parts of the United States, emphasizes the necessity for this warning.

There are three points which all parents must remember about diphtheria:

First: That the early symptoms may not suggest a very serious illness. The temperature may not be nearly as high as in tonsillitis; the child may not seem to be nearly as sick. That is why I emphasized in my opening sentence the child who just seems to be listless and not interested in play or activity, with a mild temperature, may or may not complain of a sore throat.

Second: The great importance of instituting antitoxin treatment early. This can be seen by comparing the deaths which occurred when antitoxin was administered on the first, second or third day of the disease. If administered on the first day, one patient out of a hundred died; if administered for the first time on the second day, three patients out of a hundred died; if administered for the first time on the third day, seven patients out of a hundred died; if administered for the first time on the fourth day, eleven patients out of a hundred die. The answer is quite simple the earlier the antitoxin is ad-ministered, the better the chance for recovery.

Third: That in antitoxin we have one of the great remedies of the world, which has converted what was once one of the most fatal of all diseases into a comparatively safe disease.

In 1890, before antitoxin was discovered, 117 people per 100,000 population died. In 1932, in the same places, under the same conditions, six people per 100,000 population died of diphtheria. The difference is due only to one thing—the introduction of the use of antitoxin.

Every year I get a letter from some bereaved parent or grand-parent with the following tragic story:

“Our little child (or grandchild), four or five years old, seemed to be listless and tired of play. We thought there was nothing the matter with her except fatigue. We allowed her to go for two days before a doctor was called. He found she had diphtheria. She died the next day. Please let people know the dreadful consequences of neglecting such a condition.”