Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection. You can catch it from a person who has the infection and coughs or sneezes. You can also get infected by coming in contact with an object, such as a toy, that has bacteria on it.
Diphtheria usually affects the nose and throat. Symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Swollen glands in the neck
Your doctor will diagnose it based on your signs and symptoms and a lab test. Getting treatment for diphtheria quickly is important. If your doctor suspects that you have it, you'll start treatment before the lab tests come back. Treatment is with antibiotics.
The diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus vaccine can prevent diphtheria, but its protection does not last forever. Children need another dose, or booster, at about age 12. Then, as adults, they should get a booster every 10 years. Diphtheria is very rare in the United States because of the vaccine.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- About Diphtheria (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Also in Spanish
- Diphtheria (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Diphtheria Diagnosis and Treatment (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Diphtheria Photos (Immunization Action Coalition)
- Diphtheria Signs and Symptoms (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Also in Spanish
- Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis Vaccines: MedlinePlus Health Topic (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
- Travelers' Health: Diphtheria (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Diphtheria (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: A looming epidemic: combating the recurrent outbreaks of diphtheria in Nigeria.
- Article: Recurrent diphtheria outbreaks in Nigeria: A review of the underlying factors...
- Article: Multidrug-resistant Corynebacterium diphtheriae in people with travel history from West Africa...
- Diphtheria -- see more articles