Diphtheria is a highly infectious bacterial infection that can affect the nose and throat which is mainly spread by water droplets like sneezing or by touching an object with the bacteria on it and in rare cases by touching open skin sores. Diphtheria remains endemic in some areas of Africa, South America, Eastern Europe, Russia, Central and South East Asia where vaccine coverage is low. Symptoms usually develop within 2-5 days and is treated with antitoxin and antibiotics but often required treatment in intensive care.

Tetanus is a bacterium that is not transferred from person to person but from soil and manure through an open wound in the skin. The bacteria quickly multiply releasing a toxin that can affect the nerves causing muscle stiffness and spasms. Tetanus is still found worldwide. Symptoms usually develop in 4-21 days and is treated with antibiotics and immunoglobulins.

Poliomyelitis is a serious viral infection that shows no symptoms. It can be transmitted by infected human faeces or water droplets from a cough or a sneeze. There are now only 3 countries in the world where it remains endemic after a global eradication initiative that started in 1988. These are Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan but sporadic outbreaks still occur in other countries. Symptoms take 3-21 days to develop following infection.


Diphtheria - Travellers are at risk if mixing closely with local people in an area with the disease. Vaccination is the best way to prevent diphtheria.

Tetanus – Vaccination should be considered if it has been 10 years since your last booster and you are travelling to an endemic area. Ensure you have a good first aid kit for immediate and good wound care. Don’t delay any treatment for any non-infected wounds, blisters or breaks in the skin. Wash hands with soap or alcohol-based sanitiser. If you have a deep wound or if there’s dirt or debris in a wound consult the nearest medical facility. You should be assessed to see if you need to have tetanus immunoglobulin or a further booster if you are not fully vaccinated.

Polio - There is no cure, so it is important that you are vaccinated against the virus. If it’s been longer than 10 years since your vaccination, then you should get a booster.


The main symptoms of diphtheria are:

  • High temperature of 38oC or higher
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Difficulty breathing and swallowing
  • Thick grey/white coating at the back of the throat

Typically, symptoms of tetanus take 10 days to develop and include:

  • High temperature of 38oC or higher
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Stiffness in jaw muscles
  • Muscle spasms 
  • Difficulty swallowing and breathing
  • Seizures

In the majority of polio cases there are no symptoms, those that do suffer symptoms may experience:

  • High temperature of 38oC or higher
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle ache
  • Nausea and vomiting

Diphtheria, Tetanus & Polio Vaccination:


Single dose given 10-yearly if traveling to risk areas

£30 per dose