Increase cases of whooping cough prompt reminder to update vaccine

by Capt. Wiley D. Paschal Jr.
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center Public Health Nursing

Because of increased cases of pertussis (generally known as whooping cough) in Europe and the U.S., Europe Regional Medical Command is initiating a plan to reduce the spread by ensuring vaccination records are up-to-date for Soldiers, family members and other beneficiaries.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were twice as many cases (more than 41,000) reported in 2012 compared with 18,719 cases in 2011, and the highest levels in the past 50 years. Washington state declared a pertussis epidemic in April 2012. Their response to the epidemic has been focused on informing individuals about the signs and symptoms, vaccination recommendations, identification of those at high risk (i.e., infants and pregnant women), and targeted antibiotic chemoprophylaxis.

Based on your age, two different vaccines are provided for whooping cough:
DTaP — diptheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis is administered at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 to 18 months, and 4 to 6 years old.

Tdap — tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis is given at 11 to 12 years, and a final booster when 18 or older.

All active-duty Soldiers are required to receive the pertussis vaccine. If required, active-duty Soldiers will receive their vaccine at their next periodic health assessment, pre-deployment training or next USAR/ARNG unit function where immunizations are available. Family members and beneficiaries should notify their primary care manger during their next doctor visit to obtain necessary vaccine updates. Call or visit your local clinic for further details and to receive your vaccination.

Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory disease that can be prevented through vaccination (DTaP and Tdap). Pertussis is spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing. It usually starts with cold symptoms and a cough, followed by a “whooping” sound when a person catches their breath or gasps for air after coughing.

About 80 percent of susceptible people become infected with pertussis after close contact with an infected household member. Anyone who cares for or lives with children should get their pertussis vaccination. Individuals who get the bacteria, including their family members, may be prescribed antibiotics to prevent the spread of the pertussis bacteria. Children, child care workers and health care workers may be excluded from work, school or day care if they have a suspected or confirmed laboratory pertussis finding.

Additional information can be obtained at the CDC website at