What is the mortality rate of diphtheria?

Updated: Jan 18, 2019
  • Author: Bruce M Lo, MD, MBA, CPE, RDMS, FACEP, FAAEM, FACHE; Chief Editor: Jeter (Jay) Pritchard Taylor, III, MD  more...
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Before the introduction of vaccine in the 1920s, the incidence of respiratory disease was 100-200 cases per 100,000 population in the United States and has decreased to approximately 0.001 cases per 100,000 population. [10, 1]

The most widely quoted diphtheria mortality rate is 5-10%. It may reach higher than 20% in children younger than 5 years and adults older than 40 years. Immunization patterns have the most influence on mortality patterns. Mortality rates have not changed significantly over the past few decades. Most deaths occur on days 3-4 secondary to asphyxia with a pharyngeal membrane or due to myocarditis. Mortality rates of 30-40% have been reported for bacteremic disease. [10]

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