Infectious Disease Epidemiology Program

Vaccine-preventable Diseases - Diphtheria

General Information:

Diphtheria is a disease that is caused by certain types of the Corynebacterium diphtheriae bacteria. The disease causes a sore throat, fever and a sticky white or gray film on the tonsils, throat, or inside of nose. Severe disease can cause sores on the skin or swelling of the neck. It is spread from person to person by droplets from the nose or throat and can also be spread throughclose contact with someone who has the disease. In rare occasions touching objects that have the bacteria on them or touching the sores on the skin can cause the disease to spread.

Getting a vaccine is the best way to stop yourself from getting diphtheria. There are two diphtheria vaccines available (Dtap and Tdap). Please see the vaccine information statements (VIS) below. Diphtheria has become very rare. The last case in the United States was found in a traveler coming back from Haiti in 2003.  Report and seek medical attention immediately if you suspect diphtheria.

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