Travel Health Service Diphtheria
Travel related diseases


What is diphtheria?

Diphtheria is an infection caused by the toxin-producing bacterium, Corynebacterium diphtheriae. Usually, the incubation period is 2-5 days. Patients commonly present with fever, sore throat with patches of greyish membrane adhered to the throat and palpable lymph nodes over the neck. In serious cases, it can cause airway obstruction, heart failure and nerve damage. Fatal cases can occur.

How does it spread?

The bacterium is transmitted through direct person-to-person contact. Rarely does it spread through articles soiled by a patient's discharge.

How can you prevent it?

Immunization is the mainstay for prevention of Diphtheria. Diphtheria vaccine is usually combined with tetanus toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine as triple vaccine (DTaP). Diphtheria vaccination is one of the recommended childhood immunizations and should begin during infancy. A minimum of 3 injections should be given as approximately 85% of people will be protected against diphtheria for at least 10 years after 3 injections of diphtheria vaccine, and if available, a total of 5 injections are strongly recommended.

How is it treated?

Treatment for diphtheria includes diphtheria antitoxin, antibiotics and supportive care. Household members and people having close contact with the patient should be monitored closely for early signs and symptoms of infection.