May 22, 2012

Health Officials Urge Residents to Seek Pertussis Vaccine

Immunization For Children Participating In Summer Programs Is Required

MADISON-With summer camps and other programs for children starting in the next few weeks, state health officials are urging Wisconsin residents to seek pertussis vaccinations, especially in light of the state's current outbreak.

"The best defense against pertussis continues to be vaccination," said Dr. Henry Anderson, State Health Officer. "We recommend all Wisconsin residents check their vaccination status and schedule a visit to their healthcare providers if they have not yet been immunized against pertussis."

Wisconsin is currently experiencing a widespread outbreak of the disease, with 1,514 confirmed and probable cases to date. Pertussis is a contagious bacterial disease affecting the respiratory tract and is spread by coughing, often through repeated face-to-face contact. Pertussis tends to be a cyclical disease where case numbers may rise dramatically every four to five years.

The pertussis vaccine is given in combination with Diphtheria and Tetanus vaccines, called DTaP, and is recommended for children age two months through six years old. A pertussis vaccine for adolescents and adults, called Tdap, is recommended as a one-time booster. If someone does experience pertussis after immunization, their case is usually milder.

Families with a newborn are encouraged to be immunized as part of a process called "cocooning", where parents, siblings, grandparents and others are vaccinated to provide additional protection to the newborn, who cannot be vaccinated until they are two months old. Even at that age infants still lack adequate protection. Newborns with pertussis can experience severe complications, even death. More than half of infected infants require hospitalization.

Pertussis can begin like a cold in infants and young children, with a low grade fever and a mild, irritating cough that can appear within seven to 20 days after exposure. The illness progresses to include explosive coughing that can interrupt breathing, eating and sleeping, and may be followed by vomiting and exhaustion.

Individuals with symptoms should contact their healthcare provider about antibiotic treatment that can shorten the time when they are contagious. Those with pertussis should be isolated from school, work or other activities until completing at least the first five days of the recommended antibiotic therapy.

For more information about pertussis and vaccination recommendations:

To check your children's immunization history: