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Health Alert – Diphtheria in Vietnam (September 21, 2023)
September 21, 2023

Location:  Northern Vietnam

Event:  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported an outbreak of diphtheria in several provinces in northern Vietnam, specifically Dien Bien, Ha Giang, and Thai Nguyen.  Diphtheria is a serious infection caused by strains of Corynebacterium diphtheriae bacteria that make a toxin.  Diphtheria bacteria spread from person to person through respiratory droplets, including from coughing or sneezing.  People can also get sick from touching open sores or ulcers of people sick with diphtheria.

Symptoms include sore throat, mild fever, and swollen glands in the neck.  For some people, respiratory diphtheria can lead to death.  Even with treatment, about 1 in 10 patients with respiratory diphtheria die.  Without treatment, up to half of patients can die from the disease.

CDC recommends that everyone two months and older get vaccinated to protect against diphtheria.

The CDC website contains updated information about the outbreak in Vietnam and the treatment of diphtheria, linked here at: Diphtheria in Vietnam | CDC

Actions to Take:

  • If you are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated against diphtheria and may have been exposed, it is important to start treatmentas soon as possible.
  • Vaccination against diphtheria is essential to protect against disease. If you are traveling to an affected area, you should be up to date with your diphtheria vaccines. Before travel, discuss the need for a booster dose with your healthcare professional.
  • Avoid contact with persons with symptoms of diphtheria, such as fever, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, change in voice, shortness of breath, weakness, or fatigue.
  • Avoid touching the wounds of others.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • If you feel sick during travel, seek medical care immediately. If you are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated against diphtheria and become sick after possible exposure to someone with diphtheria, it is important to start treatment as soon as possible.
  • If you feel sick after returning from travel, seek medical care immediately. Tell your healthcare professional about your diphtheria vaccination status and your recent travel, including where you went and what you did.


U.S. Embassy Hanoi (Hanoi, Vietnam) +84 (0)24-3850-5000

U.S. Consulate General Ho Chi Minh City (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam) +84 (0)28-3520-4200
Website: https://vn.usembassy.gov/

State Department – Consular Affairs:  888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444

Vietnam Country Information

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