ABC Guide to Travel Health - Vaccines, Vaccinations

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Diphtheria is a bacterial disease caused by a bacterium called Corynebacterium diphtheriae. The infection commonly affects the throat and may lead to obstruction of the airways and, in severe cases death.17

The bacteria is transmitted from person-to-person, through close physical contact. Transmission is increased in overcrowded and poor socioeconomic conditions.

Geographical distribution18
Worldwide, but endemic countries include:

  • Africa: Algeria, Egypt, and the countries in sub-Saharan region
  • Americas: Brazil, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Haiti
  • Asia/Oceania: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Laos, Mongolia, Burma (Myanmar), Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam, and Yemen
  • Europe: Albania and all countries of the former Soviet Union. Outbreaks occurred in several eastern European countries in the 1990s.

Risk for travellers17
In incompletely immunised individuals, potentially life-threatening illness and severe, lifelong complications are possible.

Precautions and prevention7,17

  • Vaccination. All travellers should be up-to-date with their diphtheria vaccination, which is recommended in Australia as part of the standard vaccination schedule. Diphtheria vaccine is given in combination with tetanus vaccine or with both tetanus and pertussis vaccines. (See your doctor)

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