This serious bacterial infection spreads through coughs, sneezes or contact with objects.

Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection. You can catch it from a person who has the infection and coughs or sneezes, which spreads the bacteria. You can also become infected by coming into contact with an object, such as a toy, that has the bacteria on it.

Diphtheria usually affects the nose and throat. Symptoms include:

  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Fever
  • Weakness

Your doctor will diagnose diphtheria based on signs, symptoms and a lab test. Getting treatment for diphtheria quickly is important. If your doctor suspects that you have it, you'll start antibiotic treatment before the lab tests come back.

The diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) vaccine can prevent diphtheria, but its protection does not last forever. Children need another dose, or booster, at about age 12. Then, as adults, they should get a booster every 10 years. Diphtheria is very rare in the United States because of the vaccine.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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