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About Diphtheria

Diphtheria once was a major cause of illness and death among children. The United States recorded 206,000 cases of diphtheria in 1921 and 15,520 deaths. Before there was treatment for diphtheria, up to half of the people who got the disease died from it.

Starting in the 1920s, diphtheria rates dropped quickly in the United States and other countries with the widespread use of vaccines. In the past decade, there were less than five cases of diphtheria in the United States reported to CDC. However, the disease continues to cause illness globally. In 2014, 7,321 cases of diphtheria were reported to the World Health Organization, but there are likely many more cases.