Health Department Reports High Number of Whooping Cough Cases

By Beacon Staff

An unusually high number of pertussis cases continue to be reported in Montana, according to state public health officials.

More than 265 cases have been reported this year and the vast majority of cases have been in school-aged children, according to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS).

Officials have determined that many of these cases resulted from out-of-date pertussis vaccinations. In addition, only 19 percent of students aged 11-12 years had received the recommended pertussis booster, known as Tdap, prior to becoming ill.

“The best way to prevent pertussis is through vaccination,” DPHHS Director Richard Opper said.

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection and initially can resemble an ordinary cold. A person can spread the disease while he or she has cold-like symptoms for at least two weeks after coughing starts.
Infants are at greatest risk for complications related to pertussis. More than half of infants younger than 1 year of age who get pertussis are hospitalized and one out of five will likely get pneumonia. Infants are most likely to die from this disease, according to the DPHHS.

In addition, officials urge all pregnant women to talk with their health care provider about new recommendations to receive Tdap vaccine during their pregnancy.

“Vaccine given to women during the third trimester of pregnancy will provide protection to a newborn as well as to the mother,” said Susan Reeser, RN, of the DPHHS Immunization Program.

“Talk to your healthcare provider or local health department about getting vaccinated against pertussis or to confirm that you and your family are up-to date with the current recommendations,” Reeser added.

More information on pertussis is available online.

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