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How is diphtheria spread?

Page last updated 09 April 2020

Diphtheria is spread from person-to-person by coughing or sneezing.

In Australia, it is now more common in adults rather than children – as most children have high levels of immunity due to immunisation programs. To prevent the spread of diphtheria, high levels of immunity are required in all age groups – which is why both adults and children are advised to be vaccinated against diphtheria.

In rare cases, the bacteria that cause diphtheria can cause a skin infection (called cutaneous diphtheria), and in these cases, the disease may spread by having contact with pus from the wound.

Sources & Citations

2. Victorian Government. Better Health Channel. Diphtheria. Available at: (accessed 27 February 2020).

5. Australian Government. Department of Health. Diphtheria in Australia, recent trends and future prevention strategies. Available at: (accessed 27 February 2020).

SPANZ.SAPAS.18.04.0134(1)a - Date of preparation March 2020