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How is diphtheria spread?

Page last updated 09 July 2018

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

In Australia, it is now more commonly acquired 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

  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. Centers for Disease Control. Diphtheria. Causes and Transmission. Available at (accessed 7 April 2018).

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