What Is Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis?

Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis, are three highly infectious diseases.

Diphtheria is a contagious bacterial infection. The symptoms of Diphtheria include sore throat, fever, and difficulty breathing. The infection can be life-threatening in some instances, particularly to travellers under the age of five. Diphtheria is usually spread person-to-person, and can be contracted through coughing, sneezing, and contact with an item that has been exposed to the bacteria. The infection can remain in a person’s system for between two and four weeks.

Tetanus is often referred to as lockjaw. It is an infection spread by bacterium that lives in dirt, soil, dust, and feces. The most common way of contracting Tetanus is through a tiny cut in your skin – even the most minimal of marks can provide an opportunity for the Tetanus bacteria to enter your system. Once infected, Tetanus causes your nerves to become stiff and painful. Symptoms of Tetanus include difficulty breathing and swallowing, headache, seizures, fever, high blood pressure, and an irregularly fast heart rate. Tetanus can only be spread by the bacteria entering your body through a cut, wound, or puncture.

Pertussis is also a contagious infection. Infection occurs in the lungs and airways and is caused by a bacteria called Bordetella Pertussis. Pertussis is known colloquially as “whooping cough,” and can cause intense coughing fits that can lead to choking or vomiting. Unlike Diphtheria, Pertussis can remain in your system anywhere from a few weeks to multiple months. Children under the age of one are most at risk.

The Tetanus Diphtheria & Pertussis Vaccine

The TDaP vaccination offers combined protection against Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis. In Italy the TDaP vaccine is administered to infants and children at two, four, six, 12, and 23 months of age. It is often given alongside other routine immunizations. A booster dose is provided to children before they enter elementary school, and then again at around 14 to 16 years of age.

Adults who have not been vaccinated against any of the three infections should receive a single dose of TDaP, especially if they will be having regular contact with an infant.

Do I Need to Look Out for Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis?

Diphtheria is an endemic in several parts of the world, especially in countries in Asia, the South Pacific, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there have also been large outbreaks in Indonesia, Thailand, and Laos since 2011. Haiti and the Dominican Republic are also high-risk areas.

Tetanus and Pertussis occur around the world. Scheduling an appointment with a Passport Health Travel Specialist before you travel will determine whether a Tetanus and Pertussis booster shot may be recommended.