What WAS That Disease That Threatened Sarah Silverman's Life Last Week?

Photo: Getty Images.
Comedian and actress Sarah Silverman just revealed that she's "lucky to be alive" after suffering from a severe case of epiglottitis.

“I was in the ICU all of last week,” she wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday. “Don't even know why I went to the doctor, it was just a sore throat. But I had a freak case of epiglottitis.”

The condition, it turns out, is a life-threatening emergency.

What is epiglottitis?
It's a disease that occurs when the epiglottis becomes inflamed. The epiglottis is a flap of tissue that sits at the back of your throat and closes over your windpipe when you're eating, so that food doesn't get into your airways. When the epiglottis is inflamed, it can swell and block the airways, making it hard for you to breathe.

What causes it?
A swollen epiglottis is usually caused by the bacteria Haemophilus influenzae (H. influenzae), the same bacteria that causes other severe illnesses such as meningitis and pneumonia. Haemophilus influenza is spread from person to person by coughing or sneezing. Epiglottitis is pretty uncommon in adults, however, because most people get the H. influenzae type B (Hib) vaccine in early childhood. Since the vaccine became routine in 1990, the number of cases of Hib have decreased by 99% compared with the pre-vaccine era. Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do not have a number for the overall cases of Hib infection, it's estimated that there is one case per 100,000 children younger than 5 years of age in the U.S. every year.
What are the symptoms?
The National Health Service says that, in addition to the sore throat that Silverman had, other symptoms of epiglottitis include difficulty or pain when swallowing, difficulty breathing, abnormal or high-pitched breathing sounds, a high fever, irritability and restlessness, a muffled or hoarse voice, and drooling. For adults and older children, sore throat, swallowing difficulties, and drooling are more common, while breathing difficulties occur more often in younger children.
How is it treated?
If you think you might have epiglottitis, get to the hospital immediately. The condition can be life-threatening, but if caught and treated right away, it doesn't have to be. In most cases, however, you'll be required to stay in the intensive care unit as doctors secure your airways and deliver oxygen through a breathing tube. Once you're able to breathe unrestricted, doctors may prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection, or administer anti-inflammatory medicine to decrease throat swelling.

How long does it take to recover?
With proper treatment, people will usually be able to leave the hospital after about five to seven days.
Since the Hib vaccine is routine in childhood vaccinations, most of us are protected against epiglottitis. However, the bacteria is contagious, so if a family member or someone you know has been sick with H. influenzae, it's best to get tested for it right away to prevent future illness.

More from Body

In April, I ran a story called “The Medium-Sized Woman Problem.” The “problem,” of course, was not the women themselves, but the way in which we frame ...
Jill Krause writes about all things mom, parenting, and relationships at her blog, Baby Rabies, and she has some words of advice for the non-pregnant ...
Let me introduce you all to the love of my life, Sienna Harper Gernon! I've never felt love like it! @justchrisgernon thank you so much, you have been...
Pregnant women get a lot of advice about motherhood, even when they don't ask for it. And in the first episode of Expecting, from Refinery29's comedy ...
Ragazzi mi state seguendo in tanti e vorrei ringraziarvi e scusarmi se non riesco a rispondere a tutti...vi proprio ho una foto che mi ricorda tutte ...
Update: Kopp's original Facebook post has been removed, and, as Shape reports, the chances of contracting an infection so severe that draining is ...
Breast-feeding has numerous benefits for both mother and baby, but it doesn't always come as naturally as we might assume. And, as one viral photo shows, ...
(Paid Content) Stress sweat is different from regular sweat in that it feeds off bacteria and causes odor. Then you start to think about it — producing ...
Last week, Kelly Stanley was breast-feeding her 9-month-old baby during dinner when someone else at her table decided to grab a cloth napkin and try to ...
Periods may be annoying, but at least they're predictable — sort of. If yours is a little delayed this cycle, and you're not trying to get pregnant right ...
It sustains life. It boosts immunity. It may or may not taste like the milk left over from a bowl of Lucky Charms. (Full disclosure: I sampled mine just ...
Gina Rodriguez is the master of keeping it real. She's been open about everything from losing her virginity to coping with thyroid disease, so it makes ...
When you see your friend's adorable baby, your first instinct, understandably, is probably to hug and kiss her all over. However, you might want to think ...
Two years ago, Ericka Hart was about to walk into a Sephora in Lower Manhattan when she looked down at her ringing phone, and stopped right there on Wall...