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Bottle for diphtheria vaccine, London, England, 1946

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Diphtheria is a bacterial infection which affects the throat. A membrane forms over the back of throat making swallowing and breathing difficult. The disease can be fatal and was once responsible for a significant proportion of childhood deaths. Diphtheria is now rare in the United Kingdom because of vaccination programmes which began in 1940, when the death rate from diphtheria was high. Cases fell from 46,281 (2,480 deaths) in 1940, to 37 cases (6 deaths) in 1957. However, diphtheria is still common in other parts of the world. The vaccine was made by Burroughs, Wellcome & Co. It is shown here with a Record-type syringe (A500633/1).

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    Glossary: vaccination

    The introduction of vaccine into the body for the purpose of inducing immunity. Coined originally to apply to the injection of smallpox vaccine, the term has come to mean any immunising procedure in which vaccine is injected.

    Glossary: bottle

    Vessels having a neck and mouth considerably narrower than the body, used for packaging and containing liquid and dry preparations

    Glossary: vaccine

    A substance given to humans or animals to improve immunity from disease. A vaccine can sometimes contain a small amount of bacteria that is designed to stimulate the body's reaction to that particular disease. The first vaccine was developed in 1796 by Edward Jenner to prevent smallpox.

    Glossary: diphtheria

    An acute highly contagious infection, generally affecting the throat but occasionally other mucous membranes and the skin. Diphtheria has been largely eradicated due to world-wide vaccination efforts.