On Call for Diphtheria, MERS

January 14, 2014: Content on this page kept for historical reasons.

Division of Bacterial Diseases (DBD) News Bulletin

Fall 2013

On Call 24/7 for Diphtheria

Once a major cause of illness and death among children, diphtheria is now nearly unheard of in the United States and serves as an example of the benefit of vaccination.

With fewer than 55 U.S. cases reported to CDC since the 1980s, most physicians today have never seen a case of diphtheria and few scientists work on this increasingly rare disease. In light of this, many people are often surprised to learn about CDC’s diphtheria activities and the unique challenges that come with a disease being so uncommon.

Diphtheria Work Leads to International Collaborations

While diphtheria is well controlled in the United States, it is still an important global public health issue. The disease is endemic in several countries while others continue to experience sporadic outbreaks—cases often occur in large areas or among pockets of unvaccinated or inadequately immunized populations. CDC provides epidemiologic and laboratory support to countries at their request, either in person or remotely. Most recently, MVPDB staff collaborated with the World Health Organization (WHO) and local health ministries during visits to Laos (2013), Indonesia (2010), and Haiti (2010). Pictured here, a team conducts patient interviews in the home of a village leader during an outbreak investigation in Huoaphang Province, Laos. CDC, WHO’s Laos country office, and the district’s surveillance group worked in close collaboration during the investigation.

Page last reviewed: January 14, 2014