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and Self-Reliance of All Montanans.

May 15, 2013


Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936
Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391

DPHHS reports high number of pertussis cases in Montana

Most cases in school-aged children

According to state public health officials, an unusually high number of pertussis cases continue to be reported in Montana. More than 265 cases have been reported this year and the vast majority of cases have been in school-aged children. 

Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) officials have determined that many of these cases were not up to date on their 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.

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 and for at least 2 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 1 out of 5 will get pneumonia.  Infants (6 months of age and younger) are the children most likely to die from this disease.  Because pertussis is so harmful in babies, everyone around them needs to be vaccinated to create a circle of protection.

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

The childhood vaccine is called DTaP and requires a series of 5 doses for the best protection. The pertussis booster vaccine for adolescents and adults is called Tdap and is currently recommended for adolescents at age 11-12 years, and for all other adults who have not previously been vaccinated with Tdap.  Both vaccines protect against pertussis, tetanus, and diphtheria. 

In addition, all pregnant women should talk to 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. 
The adolescent booster dose of Tdap is commonly given as a school requirement prior to entry into 7th grade.  During this outbreak, public health officials are urging parents to consider getting their child vaccinated as soon as they are eligible for the vaccine at age 11 years to help stop the spread of this disease.

"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 said. 

More information on pertussis is available at http://www.dphhs.mt.gov/


Page last updated: May 13, 2013