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Diphtheria  is a potentially fatal infectious bacterial disease. It mainly affects the nose and throat and sometimes the skin and can cause difficulties in breathing. Diphtheria  is very contagious and is spread by coughing, sneezing and contact with an infected person or their belongings eg. clothes, bedding, towels or cutlery. Diphtheria  is rare in the UK as vaccination is part of the childhood immunisation schedule.

Beautiful waterfall in forest area with sun shining through


The symptoms usually begin two to seven days after you become infected. A grey-white coating can develop inside your mouth covering your throat and tonsils. Symptoms include difficulty or pain in swallowing, sore throat, high temperature, chills, fatigue and hoarse voice. Other symptoms include cough, difficulty in breathing and pale blue skin. In rare cases diphtheria can affect the skin causing blisters and pus filled spots, which form into a large ulcer.

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High Temperature

Neck with bacteria sign, sore throat icon

Sore Throat, Hoarse Voice

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Pain in Swallowing

Person with chills icon


Head with cardiogram sign, fatigue icon


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Person breathing in icon

Difficulty in Breathing

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Pale Blue Skin

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Blisters and Pus Filled Spots

Countries at risk

Diphtheria is more common in parts of the world where fewer people are vaccinated, such as Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Phillipines, Papua New Guinea, Brazil and Russia. The areas considered to be high risk can change so it is advised you contact us for up to date information on your destination. In countries where standards of hygiene are poor, diphtheria can often affect the skin (cutaneous diphtheria). An estimated 5-10% of people who get the infection will die from complications of the infection, such as breathing difficulties, inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) or problems with the nervous system.

Advice for travellers

High risk groups of travellers include unvaccinated children and the elderly who may not have been vaccinated as children. All adults who have not previously been vaccinated are at risk. The best precaution is to ensure all travellers are vaccinated against diphtheria. 


Diphtheria is preventable by vaccination. If you are travelling to a high risk area you may be recommended a single injection of Revaxis, which covers against diphtheria, tetanus and polio. You should also have a booster dose if you last dose was more than 10 years ago.

Number of doses

From 10 years:

Diphtheria, tetanus and polio- One dose (provided childhood course completed)


10 years



Meningitis ACWY For Hajj/Umrah

Meningitis symptoms can develop quickly and they can be difficult to spot as they as similar to symptoms of flu. Infection with meningitis is an emergency and requires admission into a hospital where you will be given antibiotics. All pilgrims to Saudi Arabia for Hajj or Umrah are required to show proof of vaccination in the last three years against meningitis ACWY.


Vaccination is required at least 10 days before you are due to travel and you will also receive a certificate as part of your vaccination.

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