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
Diphtheria can cause a thick gray coating to build up in the throat or nose that makes it hard to breathe and swallow.
Causes and Transmission
- Diphtheria is an infection caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae.
- Diphtheria is spread (transmitted) from person to person, usually through respiratory droplets, like from coughing or sneezing.
Diphtheria Vaccines: What You Need to Know
View a one-page CDC vaccine information statement for each vaccine that protects against diphtheria (DTaP, Tdap, and Td) to learn who should get each and when.
Diphtheria Vaccine Basics
This webpage offers comprehensive information about diphtheria vaccines and other educational tools.
As with all vaccines, there can be minor reactions after getting a diphtheria vaccine, including pain and redness at the injection site, headache, fatigue, or discomfort.
Diphtheria Vaccine Recommendations
View recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
Kid-friendly Fact Sheet
This resource provides information about the disease villain known as diphtheria.
- Page last reviewed: January 15, 2016
- Page last updated: January 15, 2016
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