In the past diphtheria was a major cause of death among children. Thanks to widespread vaccination in Belgium since 1959, diphtheria has almost disappeared from our country. But the bacteria are still in circulation and vaccination is the only way to prevent diphtheria.
Groups at risk
Diphtheria can affect all age groups but most often affects people whose antibody levels are insufficient or who are not vaccinated, especially children.
The risk groups are:
- non- or incompletely-vaccinated persons
- people with insufficient antibody concentrations (people who have not received booster doses, the elderly)
- laboratory or health-care personnel or carers of people in precarious situations
- veterinarians and people in regular contact with animals
- people traveling to countries where diphtheria is still endemic
- refugees and asylum seekers arriving in Europe (mostly from countries where diphtheria is still endemic, but also due to precarious travel conditions, poor hygiene and overcrowding on arrival in Europe) (ECDC).
DID YOU KNOW? Alcoholics, the undernourished or those whose immune system is weakened (immunocompromised), are at risk of developing severe forms of diphtheria.