Travel Health Information Resource Page for Diphtheria

Read below for travel health advice on diseases and special needs from the MDtravelhealth channel.

Would you like to Edit this page? Login or Sign up!
  • Overview You can't Edit



    Diphtheria is an infection of the respiratory tract or skin caused by a bacterium known as Corynebacterium diphtheriae. The organism is transmitted from person to person through exposure to respiratory secretions or fluid from infected skin. The incubation period ranges from one to six days. In respiratory tract infections, the main symptoms are sore throat and fever, sometimes accompanied by nausea, vomiting, headache, and swelling of the neck. A distinctive grayish membrane, which is particularly characteristic of diphtheria, may develop in the throat or other areas of the oral cavity and may obstruct breathing. Other complications may include nerve weakness (neuropathy), inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), or pneumonia. Prompt administration of diphtheria antitoxin (serum containing diphtheria antibodies) is essential. At the present time, there is no preparation of diphtheria antitoxin licensed in the United States. However, diphtheria antitoxin produced by Pasteur Merieux, Lyon, France is licensed in Europe and is available in the United States through an Investigational New Drug (IND) protocol through the CDC. Physicians treating a case of suspected diphtheria can telephone the diphtheria duty officer at (404) 639-8255 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern time or (404) 639-2889 at all other times. Penicillin or erythromycin should also be given, though not as a substitute for antitoxin. Cases of respiratory tract diphtheria must be strictly isolated. Contacts should be given a booster dose of diphtheria vaccine. Contacts who may not have immunity to diphtheria should also be given a course of prophylactic antibiotics.

    Diphtheria of the skin is typically an indolent, chronic infection, seen most often in the tropics, but observed elsewhere in settings of poverty and poor hygiene. All skin infections should be treated with antibiotics, but some longstanding cases may not require antitoxin.

    Combined tetanus-diphtheria vaccine is recommended for all adults who have not been immunized within the past 10 years. Diphtheria vaccine consists of diphtheria toxin that has been inactivated by formaldehyde and adsorbed onto aluminum salts to increase its effectiveness. The vaccine is routinely given, in combination with tetanus and pertussis vaccines, to all children at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, and 4-6 years, followed by a tetanus-diphtheria booster every 10 years thereafter. An accelerated immunization schedule is recommended for children who have not completed their immunizations and who will be traveling to developing countries, especially the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union, where a massive diphtheria epidemic is in progress. Unvaccinated persons more than seven years of age should receive three doses of adult tetanus-diphtheria vaccine. The first two doses should be separated by 4-8 weeks, and the third dose should be given 6-12 months after the second. Reactions to tetanus-diphtheria vaccine may include fever or discomfort and swelling at the injection site. Severe allergic reactions, which occur rarely, are a contraindication to further doses of the vaccine.

    High-risk countries for diphtheria include Algeria, Egypt, most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam, Yemen, Albania, and all countries of the former Soviet Union.

    From the World Health Organization (WHO)

    Diphtheria toxoid vaccine

Back to Page Index

Page drop box for Diphtheria

Do you have any comments on this resource page? We want to tell the Red Planetter community about this condition or advice.

You don't need an account or have to sign up or anything!

Is there anything missing that you know about? Or can you offer any insightful tips from your experience?

You can earn Reputation score by joining our community and also enrol on the TravelTip$ program and get paid for good advice by other travellers.

If you are not logged in, or choose to make the drop box anonymously you can tell the community honestly what you seen without any concern. Please send images or other evidence to support your claims.

Drop image here or click to upload



    The MDtravelhealth channel is a source of travel health information for travellers, written by medical professionals.

    MDth Navigation

    Page is maintained by

    The MDtravelhealth channel relies on medical professionals from all over the world to maintain the Travel Health Information on these pages.

    Nobody :(
    Are you a Doctor, nurse or other Medical professional that feels they can update this page? Please login or sign up and select MDtravelhealth Channel in the Account Area.

    Topic Tags for Diphtheria

    Topic Tags are what bind the Red Planet Travel site together, and are very important.

    This place has been tagged:

    If you think those tags are not perfect, then please let the person responsible for this page know by dropping a note in the anonymous drop box below, or better yet sign up or login and join our community, once you've got enough reputation score you can edit them yourself!

    Got a Question?


    Ask any travel related question or help others with your experience and earn Reputation Score and become a valued member of our community.

    MDtravelhealth Medical Contributions

    Before you apply read about the Medical Professionals Roles on Red Planet Travel

    You need to be logged in and have applied to MDth channel to contribute to this page.

    Have something to Contribute?

    We are looking to grow the information on this site, if you have something to contribute to any page then we'd like to hear from you.

    What's more you can now earn money (paid direct via Paypal) for writing descriptions about places you know.

    You will need to tell other members about yourself and your relevant knowledge and experience about what you want to contribute about.

    Look below for some example page types, and types of people whose views on a place might be useful to know.

    Page Type: Hotel

    Are there any special benefits or adaptations that this Hotel or it's location has that you can comment on in your capacity as a Doctor

    Tell us your job, knowledge, experience..

    My Experience: Doctor

    This hotel has great CPR equipment and I can see the team are all trained

    If you are the owner/manager of any place, then you can, of course, take control of your page and add relevant information other visitors might want to know