Diphtheria in the Dominican Republic

Warning - Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel
Alert - Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions
Watch - Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions

As the COVID-19 situation around the world changes, CDC is monitoring COVID-19 risk in each country and making travel recommendations. If you are considering international travel, see CDC’s COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination.

Key points 

  • There is an outbreak of diphtheria in the Dominican Republic.
  • All travelers should make sure they are up to date with diphtheria vaccination.
Diphtheria in the Dominican Republic (View larger)
What is diphtheria?

Diphtheria is a serious infection caused by strains of bacteria called Corynebacterium diphtheriae that make toxin (poison). Infection can lead to difficulty breathing, heart failure, kidney failure, paralysis, and even death. CDC recommends infants, children, teens, and adults get vaccinated to prevent diphtheria.

Diphtheria skin infections are more common in tropical areas. They are not usually severe. However, people who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated against diphtheria can develop serious respiratory diphtheria after touching the skin sores of someone with diphtheria skin infection

What is the current situation?

In recent years, vaccination against diphtheria in the Dominican Republic has declined and health officials there are now reporting cases of the disease among children throughout the country. People (including travelers) who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated against diphtheria are at risk of getting sick.

What can travelers do to prevent diphtheria?

Get vaccinated. If you’ve already been vaccinated, talk to your healthcare provider. You may need a booster shot before travel.

If you get sick during or after travel

  • If you feel sick during travel, seek medical care immediately. If you are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated against diphtheria and may have been exposed, starting treatment quickly is important. Even with proper treatment, about 1 in 10 people with respiratory diphtheria will die. Without treatment, up to half of patients can die from the disease.
  • If you get sick after returning to the United States, seek medical care immediately. Tell your healthcare provider about your vaccination status and your travel, including where you went and what you did.

What can clinicians do?

CDC recommends diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination for all travelers. Provide diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccines to overseas travelers according to CDC’s recommendations.

Traveler Information

Clinician Information