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.

Emergency treatment

In the case of diphtheria due to a toxigenic strain, the treatment must be started urgently:

  • antibiotics
  • hospitalisation
  • diphtheria antitoxin injection to fight the toxin produced by the toxigenic bacteria
  • patient isolation (to prevent the spread of bacteria)
  • respect of certain hygiene measures
  • vaccination after infection (diphtheria does not confer immunity). 

Control measures must also be applied to the close contacts of the patient.


Sciensano performs epidemiological surveillance of diphtheria and other vaccine-preventable diseases. Sciensano centralises and analyses data provided by various partners and also coordinates certain studies or surveillance networks. Accordingly, it can observe the “trends” (figures) for diseases such as diphtheria.

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