by Amy Scholten, MPH
Diphtheria is a life-threatening infection. It can cause heart, nerve, and kidney damage. It needs to be treated right away.
This illness is caused by certain bacteria. It spreads from person-to-person contact. This can happen by:
Things that raise the risk are:
Symptoms of diphtheria may be mild or severe.
They may include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam may be done. A nose or throat swab can confirm the diagnosis.
Diphtheria will be treated right away, even if test results are not ready.
A vaccine will prevent the disease.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
Public Health Agency of Canada
Diphtheria. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/dip.html. Accessed February 2, 2021.
Diphtheria. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/diphtheria. Accessed Februsary 2, 2021.
Immunization schedules. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/index.html. Accessed February 2, 2021.
Sharma NC, Efstratiou A, et al. Diphtheria. Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2019;5(1):81.
Td (tetanus, diphtheria) VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/td.html. Accessed February 2, 2021.
Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/tdap.html. Accessed February 2, 2021.
Last reviewed September 2020 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 2/2/2021
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