Health officials urge Pertussis immunizations

Maj. James Stigers
435th Aerospace Medical Squadron
Public Health Office

Public health officials are urging parents to update their children’s immunizations after three confirmed and four suspected cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, were recently treated in the KMC.

“Pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the respiratory system that causes spasms of severe coughing,” said Maj. James Mancuso of U.S. Army Center of Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine Europe.

The symptoms are similar to the common cold with a mild fever and runny nose. Patients often have a cough with a high-pitched “whoop,” followed by vomiting. The “whoop” noise is a sign that the person is struggling to breathe between coughs.

“The disease can be very severe and, although deaths are rare, they do occur, especially in infants less than 1 year of age,” said Major Mancuso. Most cases are mild in adults and children over 7.
Most of the KMC patients were children, ages 13 to 16; some were parents of children.
“This small outbreak is no cause for alarm at schools, daycare centers or at public gatherings,” said Lt. Col. Brian Ortman, Ramstein public health flight commander. “While pertussis is not routinely seen every year in the KMC, it does occur occasionally just as in the states.”

Anyone who is suspected of having whooping cough or who is exposed to a person with the disease should be seen by their physician immediately. Current cases are not all associated by school, family or risk factor, said Capt. Timothy Whoolery, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center preventive medicine officer.

Making sure children receive all their shots on time is the best way to control this disease, said Staff. Sgt. Melissa Eaton, Ramstein public health technician.

The Department of Defense recommended immunization schedule requires four doses of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis immunizations completed by 18 months of age and an additional dose before children start school. All DOD schools and most U.S. schools require the series prior to admission.
Contact a family doctor or an immunization clinic to find out if shots are up to date. Call the Ramstein Public Health Epidemiology Office at 479-2525 or the Landstuhl Community Health Office at 486-7002 for information about whooping cough.