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Can adults get diphtheria?

Page last updated 09 July 2018

Yes, adults can contract diphtheria and in fact, in Australia it is now more commonly seen in adults than in children. 

Diphtheria can affect people of all ages. In countries where it is more common, it mostly affects young children. However, in Australia (where we have high vaccination rates due to childhood immunisation programs), all 16 cases reported between 2016 and 2017 were in adults.

Your protection against or immunity to diphtheria decreases over time, leaving you unprotected against infection. To maintain protection it is recommended that you speak with your healthcare professional about keeping your vaccinations up-to-date.

Sources & Citations

  1. Australian Government. Department of Health. Australia’s notifiable disease status, 2014: Annual report of the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (main page). Available at (accessed 7 April 2018).
  2. Victorian Government. Better Health Channel. Diphtheria. Available at (accessed 7 April 2018).
  3. Australian Government. Department of Health. National Notafiable Diseases Surveillance System. Number of notifications for all diseases by year, Australia, 1991 to 2017 and year-to-date notifications for 2018. Available at: (accessed 3 May 2018).

SPANZ.SAPAS.18.04.0134a - Date of preparation May 2018