Diphtheria is an upper respiratory tract illness characterized by sore throat, low-grade fever, and an adherent membrane (a pseudomembrane) on the tonsil(s), pharynx, and/or nose. A milder form of diphtheria can be restricted to the skin. It is caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae, a facultatively anaerobic Gram-positive bacterium.
Diphtheria is a highly contagious disease spread by direct physical contact or breathing the aerosolized secretions of infected individuals.
Diphtheria in A Different Flesh
In a sense, diphtheria was indirectly responsible for the end of slavery in the Federated Commonwealths of America. It was a fatal outbreak of the illness among the sims on Charles Gillen's plantation in Virginia in 1804 that forced Gillen to move his domestic servant, Jeremiah, out into the fields. A hard day's labor caused Jeremiah to run away from the plantation, and into history.