Talk to Patients About: Diphtheria
By Sean Price

There is a lot of misinformation about vaccines, so each month Texas Medicine magazine highlights a disease that childhood and adult immunizations can prevent. The material is designed to help you talk to your patients about the severity of these diseases and help them understand the benefits of vaccines.

Texas Medicine recently highlighted diphtheria, a highly contagious bacterial infection that chokes off patients’ ability to breathe.

Diphtheria infected more than 200,000 and killed 15,000 in the U.S. in 1920, but the growing use of vaccines during that decade caused rates to drop, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says. In the 1940s, the diphtheria vaccine was combined with tetanus and pertussis, and the shot became routine for children. Between 2004 and 2017, only two U.S. cases were reported, CDC says.

There are four types of diphtheria vaccines. Babies and children younger than 7 years receive DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis) or DT (diphtheria and tetanus); older children and adults receive Tdap and Td.

For more information about talking to your patients about diphtheria, including a printable copy of the infographic below and a simple educational video, see the Texas Medical Association’s website.

TMA designed this “Talk to Patients About” series to inform patients of the facts about these diseases and to help them understand the benefits of vaccinations to prevent illness. Diseases covered so far include:

Visit the TMA website to see efforts to raise immunization awareness and how funding is used to increase vaccination rates.

TMA actively works to improve vaccination rates in Texas through its Be Wise – ImmunizeSM program. More than 340,000 shots have been given to Texas children, adolescents, and adults since the program began in 2004. It is funded in 2019 by the TMA Foundation thanks to H-E-B, TMF Health Quality Institute, Pfizer Inc., and gifts from physicians and their families.

Last Updated On

July 08, 2019

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Sean Price


(512) 370-1392

Sean Price is a reporter for Texas Medicine and Texas Medicine Today. He grew up in Fort Worth and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. He's worked as an award-winning writer and editor for a variety of national magazine, book, and website publishers in New York and Washington. He's also helped produce Texas-based marketing campaigns designed to promote public health. Sean lives in Austin and enjoys hiking, photography, and spending time with his wife and two sons.

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