Vaccinate Your Baby


Click on the photo above to open the Diphtheria page from the Vaccine-Preventable Diseases eBook!

The Disease

Diphtheria is a serious and very contagious bacterial disease.  It is spread from an infected person by coughing and sneezing. A person can also get infected with diphtheria by coming into contact with a contaminated object. When the bacteria that cause diphtheria invade a person’s respiratory system, they produce a toxin (poison) that can cause weakness, sore throat, fever, and swollen glands. Within two to three days, a thick coating can build up in the person’s throat or nose, making it very hard to breathe and swallow. Complications from diphtheria may include blocked airway; damage to the heart muscle; nerve damage; paralysis; lung infection (respiratory failure or pneumonia); and even death.

The Statistics

Without treatment, 40-50% of infected persons die, with the highest death rates occurring in children under 5 years old and adults over 40 years old. Even with treatment about 1 out of 10 diphtheria patients die. Since the introduction of the vaccine for diphtheria, the disease has dramatically declined. In the last 10 years, only 5 cases have been reported per year in the U.S.

The Vaccine

DTaP is a combination vaccine that protects children from diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. For the best protection, children need five doses of  DTaP. These doses should be given to children at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, between 15 and 18 months, and between 4 and 6 years.

The Td and Tdap combination vaccines protect adolescents and adults against the tetanus and diphtheria. Tdap also protects also includes protection against pertussis. Two doses of the Tdap vaccine are recommended for adolescents. The first dose at age 11 or 12 and the second dose between 13 and 18 years of age.

Adults should receive one dose of Td every 10 years, and should substitute a one-time dose of Tdap for one of their Td boosters. Women should receive a dose of Tdap at each pregnancy.

Additional Resources


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