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What is it?

A bacterial disease that affect the tonsils, throat, nose, and sometimes skin.


The bacteria most commonly infect the respiratory system, which includes parts of the body involved in breathing. When the bacteria get into and attach to the lining of the respiratory system, it can cause:

  • Weakness
  • Sore throat
  • Mild fever
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Bacteria can also infect the skin, causing open sores or ulcers

How does it spread?

Through close contact with the discharge from an infected person's eyes, nose, throat, or skin.


DTap, Tdap, Td
Babies need three shots of DTaP
Young children need two booster shots to maintain that protection through early childhood.
CDC recommends shots at the following ages:
2 months
4 months
6 months
15 through 18 months
4 through 6 years
Booster, 11-12
Booster every 10 years

Diphtheria is an infection caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae bacteria. The bacteria make a toxin that kills healthy tissues in the respiratory system. Within two to three days, the dead tissue forms a thick, gray coating that can build up in the throat or nose. Medical experts call this thick, gray coating a “pseudomembrane.” It can cover tissues in the nose, tonsils, voice box, and throat, making it very hard to breathe and swallow. If the toxin gets into the blood stream, it can cause heart, nerve, and kidney damage.