What is Diphtheria?

  • Diphtheria is a serious infection caused by strains of bacteria called Corynebacterium diphtheriae that make toxin (poison).
  • It can lead to difficulty breathing, heart failure, paralysis, and even death.
  • Transmission is most often person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Transmission may also occur from exposure to infected skin lesions or articles soiled with discharges from these lesions.
  • CDC recommends vaccines for infants, children, teens, and adults to prevent diphtheria.
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommend children receive all vaccines according to the recommended vaccine schedule.

Is it a reportable illness?

  • This is a reportable illness to CDPH. Please work with your school nurse to gather the needed information and report immediately (within 3 hours).

What do schools need to do next?

  • Sick Person
    • Needs to be excluded pending medical evaluation.
  • Management of close contacts should include monitoring for possible respiratory or cutaneous diphtheria for 10 days from the time of the last exposure to the diphtheria patient and obtaining nasal and throat cultures for C. diphtheriae. 
    • Close contacts may need to receive antibiotics.
    • Close contacts of diphtheria patients include:
      • All household members
      • Persons with a history of habitual, close contact with the person
      • Persons directly exposed to secretions from the suspected infection site of the person


Chicago Schools: This is a reportable disease to CDPH. 

Report Cases within 3 hours: please call (312) 746-6015, email us at SchoolsCD@cityofchicago.org or complete this REDcap Form 
  • Diphtheria One Pager - Coming Soon
  • A draft parent letter is available through CDPH upon the confirmation of a reported case.