Prevention

Keeping up to date with recommended vaccines in the best protection against diphtheria.

Graphic depicting young children, preteens, and adults, all of which need diphtheria vaccines.

This graphic highlights CDC’s diphtheria vaccination recommendations for young children, preteens, and adults.

Vaccination

In the United States, there are four vaccines used to prevent diphtheria: DTaP, Tdap, DT, and Td. Each of these vaccines prevents diphtheria and tetanus; DTaP and Tdap also help prevent pertussis (whooping cough).

Learn more about who should get which diphtheria vaccine(s).

Antibiotics and other preventive measures

CDC recommends that close contacts* of someone with diphtheria receive antibiotics to prevent them from getting sick. Experts call this prophylaxis (pro-fuh-lak-sis).

In addition to getting antibiotics, close contacts of someone with diphtheria should be

  • Monitored for possible illness for 7 to 10 days from the time they were last exposed
  • Tested for diphtheria with a sample collected from the nose and throat
  • Given a diphtheria booster shot if they are not up to date with their vaccines

Health departments investigate each case of diphtheria to identify all close contacts and make sure they receive the right preventive measures.

 

Footnote

*Close contacts are defined as all household members, people with a history of frequent, close contact with the patient, or people directly exposed to secretions from the suspected infection site of the patient.

Page last reviewed: September 9, 2022