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Diphtheria is an infection caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae. Diphtheria causes a thick covering in the back of the throat. It can lead to difficulty breathing, heart failure, paralysis, and even death. Vaccines are recommended for infants, children, teens and adults to prevent diphtheria.

Signs and Symptoms

sick in bedThe formation of a thick gray coating that attaches over the nasal tissues, tonsils, voice box, or throat is a main symptom of diphtheria.


Causes and Transmission

boy sneezing
  • Diphtheria is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae.
  • Diphtheria is spread (transmitted) from person to person, usually through respiratory droplets, like coughing or sneezing.


Diphtheria Vaccination

  • Diphtheria Vaccines: What You Need to Know
    View a one-page CDC vaccine information statement for each vaccine that protects against diphtheria (DTaP, Tdap, Td) to learn who should get each and when.
  • Diphtheria Vaccine Basics
    Offers comprehensive information about diphtheria vaccines and other educational tools.
  • Vaccine Safety
    As with all vaccines, there can be minor reactions, including pain and redness at the injection site, headache, fatigue or a vague feeling of discomfort.
  • Diphtheria Vaccine Recommendations
    View recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).


Diphtheria for Kids

Diphtheria characterDiphtheria is a poisonous, toxic infector. When diphtheria strikes, its bacteria swarm and multiply…


Diphtheria Photos

Corynebacterium diphtheriae bacteriaPhotos of the bacterium that causes diphtheria and images of patients.