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Diphtheria

Prevention

Receiving adequate diphtheria vaccination is the best way to prevent the disease. This vaccine is one of the recommended childhood immunizations and should begin during infancy. The vaccine is usually coupled with the tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) vaccines (DTaP vaccine). The vaccine consists of a series of five shots administered at ages:

  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 12 to 18 months
  • 4 to 6 years

Persons over the age of 7 years who did not receive five doses of the diphtheria vaccine during their childhood should contact their health care provider to determine the best vaccine protocol available for them to become adequately vaccinated against the disease. The adult vaccine protocol usually consists of three doses of the vaccine with the second dose given one to two months after the first dose and the third dose given six months after the second dose.

Persons diagnosed with diphtheria should be placed in isolation and remain there until two negative cultures are obtained. If the infected individual is suffering from the cutaneous form of diphtheria, all skin lesions should be completely covered.

All close contacts (defined as those who sleep in the same house, share food, drink, or utensils with the infected person or those in contact with the infected person’s respiratory oral secretions) should have cultures taken from the nose and throat (in respiratory diphtheria) or skin (in cutaneous diphtheria) and should be kept under surveillance for development of the disease for seven days. Health care providers may choose to prescribe antibiotics to close contacts.

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