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July 19, 2011

Older Adults can get Pertussis Protection

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services announced today that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved a vaccine to prevent tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough), to vaccinate persons aged 65 or more.  The vaccine, marketed under the trade-name Boostrix, is given as a single-dose booster shot and is the first vaccine approved to prevent all three diseases in older people.

Pertussis is a serious bacterial infection that causes respiratory illness.  Pertussis is characterized by a cough that can last a month or more, and can cause pneumonia and death.  In Montana, the number of reported cases of pertussis has increased in the last three years, with 72 reported cases thus far in 2011.

“Pertussis is a highly contagious disease, and outbreaks have occurred among the elderly in nursing homes and hospitals,” said Anna Whiting Sorrell, director of DPHHS. “But pertussis can be controlled through proper vaccination.  With the approval of this vaccine, adults aged 65 years and older now have the opportunity to receive a vaccine that prevents pertussis, as well as tetanus and diphtheria.”

Unvaccinated infants and school-age children are most at risk during pertussis outbreaks, but infections can occur in any age group, especially in settings where people are close together.  DPHHS urges all persons, including those older than 65 years of age, who have contact with infants, and those who have not yet received a dose of adult pertussis vaccine, to be immunized.  Lisa Underwood, immunization section supervisor of DPHHS, emphasized, “The new vaccine also protects against two other diseases, tetanus and diphtheria.” 

The bacteria that causes tetanus that live in soil, dust, and manure, and usually enters the body through wounds.  Tetanus causes paralysis.  Diphtheria usually causes sore throat, swollen glands, fever, and chills. If not properly diagnosed and treated, serious complications such as heart failure or paralysis can result. Both tetanus and diphtheria are rarely reported in Montana; however pertussis outbreaks continue to occur statewide.

Page last updated: 07/30/2013