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Diphtheria is an acute infectious disease, which, primarily, affects the mucous membrane of the pharynx, larynx, or air-passages; and, secondarily, as result of the absorption of the toxic element from the seat of infection, a general systemic or constitutional disturbance arises. The history of this disease dates back over many centuries, apparently beyond the time of Hippocrates, and all nations seem to have been scourged with its various epidemics at one time or other. It is notable that various theories were advanced to explain its causation, but it was only during the latter part of the present century, when with the improved teaching of the microscope and the advanced detail of laboratory technique, that the real cause was discovered and identified, namely, the Loeffler bacillus.
The period of incubation is the time which elapses from the deposit of the bacillus or germ on the mucous membrane, until some morbid
SEIBERT WH. DIPHTHERIA.. JAMA. 1896;XXVI(8):366–369. doi:10.1001/jama.1896.02430600018002d