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Photo of human heart model

Complications from diphtheria may include:

  • Blocking of the airway
  • Damage to the heart muscle (myocarditis)
  • Nerve damage (polyneuropathy)
  • Loss of the ability to move (paralysis)
  • Lung infection (respiratory failure or pneumonia)

For some people, diphtheria can lead to death. Even with treatment, about 1 out of 10 diphtheria patients die. Without treatment, as many as 1 out of 2 patients can die from the disease.