Information brève en Français
Diphtheria is a bacterial infection caused by the organism Corynebacterium diphtheriae. The spread of infection requires close contact between people.
When an infected person coughs or sneezes, droplets containing the bacteria may enter the nose or throat of another person. While some people experience few or no symptoms, others develop infection in the throat and respiratory tract which can result in obstructed breathing and death. Even with treatment, one in ten affected persons dies of the disease. The infection can also cause damage to the heart and nervous system. In tropical environments, the skin can be affected.
A safe and effective vaccine has long been available for diphtheria; it is usually given together with vaccines against tetanus and pertussis in the triple vaccine known as DTP.
Today about 5000 people, mostly children, die of diphtheria each year. There have been recent epidemics of the disease in Russia and other Eastern European countries, and some of those affected have been adults.
For more information see:
The World Health Organization
At a glance
Vaccine-preventable disease statistics
Glossaire des infections a prévention vaccinale
'Traditional' or 'basic' vaccines
- Haemophilus influenzae b (Hib)
- Hepatitis B
- Yellow fever
Vaccines that are expected to be available shortly
- Pneumococcus (Streptococcus pneumoniae)
- Meningococcal A/C conjugate
Vaccines for which more research is needed