Diphtheria is a serious disease that spreads between people through sneezes and coughs. Luckily, diphtheria is easily prevented with a vaccine that's commonly given to babies.
Most people who get diphtheria can expect to spend a week or so feeling pretty awful, with a cough, sore throat, and fever. For others, diphtheria is dangerous and even deadly, killing tissues in the airway and making it difficult to breathe, and sometimes damaging the heart. In most of the world, diphtheria vaccines are readily available. In Greek, the word diphtheria means "leather," a reference to the leathery coating the disease can cause in the throat.