Diphtheria has largely been eliminated in the U.S. due to vaccines. The effects of diphtheria can be severe: paralysis, lung infection, lung failure, even death. One in 10 people will die from diphtheria, even with treatment. 

Symptoms of Diphtheria

A bacteria causes a coating in the nose and throat that makes it hard to breathe. In addition, people may feel weakness, sore throat, swollen glands, and fever. It can damage vital organs.

How Diphtheria is Spread

Diphtheria spreads when someone with the illness sneezes on you, you touch open sores of an infected person, or you touch an item touched by an infected person

Diphtheria vaccine

When you get vaccinated for diphtheria, you keep others in your community safe, too. It's your best way to prevent this disease. The CDC lists the various types of vaccines:

  • DTaP vaccine — protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough (for infants and children)
  • Tdap vaccine — protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough (for preteens, teens, and adults)
  • Td vaccine — protects against diphtheria and tetanus (for preteens, teens, and adults)


Under Age 5

The DTaP vaccine is part of childhood vaccinations. According to the CDC, children receive the vaccine at:

  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 15 through 18 months
  • 4 through 6 years

Ages 7 to 18

  • 1 booster shot vaccine at age 11 or 12. If your child misses the booster shot, talk with your child’s doctor about catching up.

Age 19 and older

  • 1 booster shot of the Td vaccine every 10 years. If you missed the Tdap booster as a teen, you’ll need to get a Tdap booster instead to make sure you have protection from whooping cough.

Pregnant women

  • 1 booster shot of the Tdap vaccine during the third trimester of each pregnancy.