Diphtheria is a highly infectious bacterial infection which can be fatal. It is caused by Corynebacterium diphtheria bacteria.
Diphtheria causes nose and throat infections. Lymph glands can also become swollen.
Diphtheria is still a high for unvaccinated travellers to countries where diphtheria vaccinations are not readily available.1
The following is a summary about the disease. For further details speak to your local pharmacist or GP.
Diphtheria is spread by:
Some types of diphtheria bacteria can also spread from animals to humans1
Diphtheria is found in many areas, including:
A world map showing risk areas for diphtheria can be found here.3
The incubation period for diphtheria is between 2-5 days. Symptoms may include:
If the bacteria affects the skin (cutaneous diphtheria), it can cause:
Effects of toxin produced by the bacteria may include:
Diphtheria needs to be treated quickly in hospital to help prevent serious complications, such as breathing difficulties or heart problems.
The main treatments are:
Treatment usually lasts between 2-3 weeks. Any skin ulcers heal within 2-3 months but may leave scars.
Anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has diphtheria may also need to take antibiotics or may be given a dose of the diphtheria vaccination.2
Get urgent medical help if diphtheria is suspected, especially if:
Travellers should be advised not to consume raw dairy products, to avoid close contact with cattle/farm animals and to follow good personal hygiene rules to minimise risk of infection.1
An effective vaccination against diphtheria is available. In addition to vaccination, travellers should:
The diphtheria vaccine is now only given as part of combined products:
These vaccines are inactivated, do not contain live organisms and cannot cause the diseases against which they protect. It can therefore be given safely to people with immunosuppression (including those with HIV) and to pregnant and breast-feeding women.5
Childhood vaccination programme:
The diphtheria vaccination is offered as part of the NHS routine childhood vaccination programme. It’s given by injection in 5 separate doses. These are normally given at:
This information is taken from trusted third party websites, NaTHNaC (Travel Health Pro) and EMIS (Patient info) and use of all information has been licenced under the Open Government Licence http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3/.
Although the materials are being used/replicated under the provisions of the Open Government Licence this in no way represents endorsement of Traveljab.co.uk by NaTHNaC, Emis, Public Health England, the NHS or the Department of Health and Social Care.