Diphtheria: Global update

Updated: January 22, 2019


Original publication date: February 9, 2018

Current situation

Diphtheria occurs worldwide and is still endemic in many countries. Travellers who are not fully vaccinated may be at risk for catching diphtheria when visiting a country where the disease is still prevalent.

Currently, the following countries are reporting outbreaks of diphtheria:

About diphtheria

Diphtheria is a very contagious bacterial disease. It can spread quickly from person to person by direct, close physical contact, contact with respiratory droplets, and less commonly, through contact with contaminated objects. Diphtheria can be very serious and even deadly, especially for infants and very young children.

The symptoms of diphtheria include:

Diphtheria can be prevented with a vaccine.

Diphtheria can be treated with antibiotics as well as with a diphtheria antitoxin.


Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic six weeks before you travel.

Get vaccinated for diphtheria
Diphtheria can be prevented with a vaccine. In Canada, the diphtheria vaccine is part of the Routine Childhood Immunization Schedule. The diphtheria vaccine is usually given as part of a combined vaccine with other diseases. Travellers should make sure their diphtheria vaccination is up-to-date, regardless of their travel destination:

Wash your hands frequently

Practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette:

Monitor your health

Registration of Canadians Abroad

Sign up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad (ROCA) service to stay connected with the Government of Canada in case of an emergency abroad or an emergency at home.

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