June 29, 2019

This season’s first death due to diphtheria in Delhi has caused an alarm, with doctors assessing their preparedness.


  • Cause: Diphtheria is an infectious disease caused by Corynebacterium diphtheria, a bacterium.

  • Health impact: One type of diphtheria affects the throat and sometimes the tonsils. Another type causes ulcers on the skin; these are more common in the tropics (places where all 12 months have mean temperatures of at least 18 °C).

  • Vulnerable groups: Diphtheria particularly affects children aged 1 to 5 years. In temperate climates diphtheria tends to occur during the colder months.

  • Vaccine: The diphtheria vaccine is among the oldest vaccines in India’s Universal Immunisation Programme.

  • Indian scenario: Cases in the country have been going up over the last few years after showing a remarkable reduction in 2015. In 2015, as per WHO data, India reported 2,365 cases. However, in 2016, 2017 and 2018, the numbers rose successively to 3,380, 5,293 and 8,788.