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Vaccines to Prevent Diphtheria
There are four combination vaccines used to prevent diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough): DTaP, Tdap, DT, and Td. Two of these (DTaP and DT) are given to children younger than seven years of age and two (Tdap and Td) are given to older children and adults. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure which vaccines you or your children have received in the past.
Note: Upper-case letters in these abbreviations denote full-strength doses of diphtheria (D) and tetanus (T) toxoids and pertussis (P) vaccine. Lower-case “d” and “p” denote reduced doses of diphtheria and pertussis used in the adolescent/adult-formulations. The “a” in DTaP and Tdap stands for “acellular,” meaning that the pertussis component contains only a part of the pertussis organism.
Last reviewed: April 2015
Diphtheria is a respiratory disease caused by bacteria that causes a thick covering on the back of the throat.
Symptoms of diphtheria are:
It can lead to breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure, and even death.
Diphtheria is spread person-to-person by coughing and sneezing.
Everyone needs protection from diphtheria. Several thousand cases of diphtheria occur around the world every year. The United States averaged more than 175,000 cases of diphtheria each year before vaccines. Since vaccines have been available, diphtheria cases have fallen by over 99.9%.
Last reviewed: May 2016
Microscopic view of diphtheria.