Officials with the Diphtheria Reference Centre, Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES) in Vienna reported an imported case of cutaneous diphtheria (C. diphtheriae) in a tourist to Sri Lanka, according to a post on the infectious disease website, ProMed Mail.

cutaneous diphtheria/CDC
cutaneous diphtheria/CDC

Health officials say the patient returned from a month-long trip to Sri Lanka in late December and presented as an outpatient at the hospital signs and symptoms of infection of the tissues near a fingernail.

Cultures taken at admission revealed toxigenic Corynebacterium diphtheriae.

In the summer of 2015, European health authorities reported nine cutaneous diphtheria cases in asylum seekers in three nations- Denmark, Sweden and Germany.

Cutaneous diphtheria is endemic in tropical countries but is uncommon in Europe. Vaccination is the only effective protection against toxigenic diphtheria and unvaccinated people are at risk of developing potentially life threatening infection with toxigenic C. diphtheriae.

According to the Mayo Clinic, cutaneous diphtheria affect the skin, causing the typical pain, redness and swelling associated with other bacterial skin infections. Ulcers covered by a gray membrane also may develop in cutaneous diphtheria.

People can get sick from touching open sores (skin lesions) or clothes that touched open sores of someone sick with diphtheria.