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Did your evil boss make you work today with a sore throat? He'll be pretty sorry if you turn out to have Cornyebacterium Diphtheriae.

Although it might start like any cold, Diphtheria quickly envelops your throat in a thick,
gelatinous "pseudomembrane" that suffocates your airways. Lymph nodes in your neck swell up into a "bull neck" that will make you resemble Jabba the Hut and some cases may even require a tracheotomy -- a hole cut in your windpipe so you can breath. Skin ulcers can drain infected pus. That would be quite enough, but -- as the TV commercial says -- there's more! One thing that makes dying of Diphtheria such a special experience is a unique poison called diphtheria toxin that causes paralysis and heart failure.

The invention of Diphtheria Antitoxin snagged Dr. Emil Von Behring a Nobel prize in 1901, and the precious antitoxin saved lives in Alaska when it was heroically delivered to Nome by dog sled in 1925 -- commemorated with the Iditarod Races, and immortalized in the classic Disney movie "Balto" -- the story of the half-wolf huskie who dragged the sled for 647 miles. Balto's bronze statue still stands in New York's Central Park in memory of the children he saved.

Your child can also be a hero like Balto -- by getting a DPT shot. Although we now have antibiotics that can kill the Diphtheria bacterium, real progress in eliminating this scourge was made with the development of the Diphtheria vaccination, which prevents you from getting it in the first place. Thanks to the DPT shots, annual Diphtheria infections in the USA have dropped from 200,000 in the 1920's to single digits today. But the world is still a dangerous place. As recently as the year 2000, almost a quarter of a million cases were reported during an epidemic in the former Soviet Union -- where five thousand deaths could have been prevented with vaccinations costing around $15. As more of your freeloading neighbors skip their kids' vaccinations, Diphtheria is likely to make a violent return to a neighborhood near you. So don't ignore your sore throat. Take the day off, enjoy a hot toddy and a warm bath, dry yourself off with a nice fluffy towel and go to bed early. It's for your boss's own good.

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