What is Diphtheria?

Diphtheria is a highly contagious infection that affects the nose, throat and sometimes the skin. It can be a serious illness and sometimes fatal especially in children if left untreated. It is rare in the UK but there is a small risk of catching it from travel in certain parts of the world. It is spread by coughs and sneezes, or through close contact with someone who is infected. It is also spread through sharing items such as cups, cutlery, clothing or bedding with an infected person.

Who is at risk from Diphtheria?

Anyone travelling to parts of the world where there is a risk of getting diphtheria. Since 2018, the world health organisation has reported cases in:
  • Indonesia
  • India
  • South America
  • Africa
Places that have higher cases of diphtheria often change over time.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms usually start 2 to 5 days after becoming infected. Symptoms include:

  • A think grey-white coating that may cover the back of the throat, nose and tongue.
  • A high temperature(fever)
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands in the neck (bull neck)
  • Difficulty breathing and swallowing.

In countries with poor hygiene, infection of the skin is more common. It can cause:

  • Pus-filled blisters on legs, feet and hands
  • Large ulcers surrounded by red, sore-looking skin.

DC Travel Vaccination Service

The pharmacist led DC vaccination service will give you advice if you are planning to travel abroad and have not been fully vaccinated against diphtheria or going to an area with reported cases and your last vaccine dose was more than 10 years ago.

You will be offered the 3-in-1 teenage booster. This injection will also protect against tetanus and polio.

If you have never been vaccinated against the diphtheria, you may be advised to have as many doses as possible before travel. There should be at least 1month gap between each dose. Your DC pharmacist will draw up a vaccination schedule for your trip. This may include completing the course after your holiday If there is not enough time to have all doses you need.

Can I use the DC Diphtheria Vaccination Service?

The service is suitable for adults who are travelling abroad:
  • Who were fully vaccinated, but last dose was more than 10 years ago (recommended)
  • Who did not complete vaccination schedule (recommended)
  • Visiting a country with reported cases of diphtheria (recommended)

  • This service is not suitable to those that:
  • Have had severe reactions to diphtheria, tetanus or polio vaccines in the past.
  • Have had severe reactions to neomycin, streptomycin or polymyxin B which are used in the production of diphtheria vaccine and trace may remain.
  • Have had neurological complication following earlier vaccination.

Your DC pharmacist will double check your suitability for the vaccine.

What are the side effects to the Diphtheria Vaccine?

The 3-in-1 teenage booster (Revaxis®) is a very safe vaccine and is used widely in the UK as part of the national immunisation programme.

As with all vaccines, more than 1 in 10 people may experience minor side effects, such as swelling, redness or tenderness where the injection is given. Sometimes a small painless lump develops, but it usually disappears in a few weeks. Other common reactions include:

  • feeling dizzy
  • feeling or being sick (nausea and vomiting)
  • high temperature
  • headache

Between 1 in 100 and 1 in 1000 may experience swollen glands and muscle pains and very rarely (fewer than 1 in 1000) may experience joint pains and allergic reactions known as anaphylaxis. The healthcare professional administering the vaccine will be fully trained in how to deal with the severe allergic reactions and most people recover completely with treatment.

What happens next?

  1. Book a virtual consultation via online portal
  2. A DC pharmacist will review your suitability for the yellow fever vaccine service
  3. Receive vaccine at our centres

How long will this take?

The first consultation will take 15 – 30 minutes (depending on your past medical history). The vaccination appointment will take 30 minutes (including 15 minutes observed wait in case of severe reaction)

What else do I need to know before appointment?

The vaccine will be administered in the upper arm of your choice. Revaxis® contains 2mg of alcohol in each dose. This small amount of alcohol will not have any noticeable effects. Revaxis® maybe administered to breastfeeding women.