diphtheria - MASTA Travel Health | For All Your Vaccination advice


Diphtheria is an infection caused by bacteria. It mainly affects the nose and throat, but can also affect the skin. It is very infectious and can become serious very quickly. Most cases occur in people who have never had a diphtheria vaccine, or who did not complete the initial course.
  • Symptoms Fever, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, loss of appetite, hoarse voice. Serious cases can lead to breathing problems and heart failure.
  • How do you catch diphtheria? Diphtheria is mostly spread by coughs and sneezes, but there are other ways it can be spread, including by eating unpasteurised dairy products.
  • Incubation period 2 – 5 days
  • Diagnosis Diphtheria is diagnosed by sending swabs from the mouth and throat to a laboratory for testing.


A course of the vaccine combining diphtheria with tetanus and polio is offered routinely in the UK from the age of 8 weeks. A booster vaccination may be advised for travellers going to areas of high risk.


As diphtheria can be very serious, patients will be isolated in hospital and started on antibiotics before swab test results are received.

Vaccination options

Part of the standard UK vaccination schedule, a booster is offered to travellers combined with tetanus and polio.

Level of protection: ~ 95-100%

Protection duration: 10 years.

How is it given: Single Booster Injection

Ideally start: Booster is suitable for last minute travellers

£41.00 Pricing shown is per dose

  • Before routine immunisation was introduced in the 1940’s, diphtheria was a major cause of death for children worldwide.
  • A thick grey skin can be seen attached to the tonsils and back of the throat with this disease.
  • Many developed countries now have good vaccination programmes, but diphtheria is still a risk for travellers to less developed countries.
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