The Department of Public Health and Social Services (DPHSS) has been informed that an epidemic of pertussis (whooping cough) is currently occurring in Washington State. As of May 12, 2012, the Washington State Department of Health reported that there have been 1,484 confirmed, probable and suspect cases of Pertussis. One hundred and one infants less than one year of age were reported as having whooping cough and twenty-six of them were hospitalized.
Pertussis is a highly contagious disease of the respiratory tract caused by Bordetella Pertussis. Unimmunized or incompletely immunized young infants are particularly vulnerable. It is primarily spread by direct contact with discharge from the nose and throat of infected individuals. It is essential that children receive all their vaccinations on time to prevent this disease.
It would be advisable for persons traveling to Washington State to make sure they have been vaccinated for pertussis before departing. Since residents from this area may visit Guam, it is also possible that the disease may be brought here.
DPHSS encourages parents to review their children’s immunization (shot) records to ensure they have received their pertussis vaccine. All physicians are advised to routinely check if their patients are appropriately vaccinated.
The current recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are:
- Children less than 7 years old should receive five doses of diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (DTaP), one dose at each of the following ages: 2, 4, 6 and 15-18 months and 4-6 years.
- Children 7-10 years who are not fully vaccinated against whooping cough should get a pertussis booster, called tetanus diphtheria and acellular pertussis vaccine (Tdap).
- Adolescents 11-18 years of age (preferably at age 11-12 years) and adults 19-64 years of age should receive a single dose of Tdap.
- Pregnant women who have not been previously vaccinated with Tdap should get one dose of Tdap preferably during the third trimester or late second trimester (after 20 weeks gestation) – or after delivery, before leaving the hospital or birthing center with a newborn.
- Adults 65 and older who have close contact with an infant and have not previously been vaccinated with Tdap, should receive a single dose of Tdap.
All health care providers on Guam are urged to be on alert for possible cases of pertussis and to promptly report suspect cases to the Immunization Program, Bureau of Communicable Disease Control, at 735-7143/7148 or 735-7135.
For more information, please call the DPHSS’ Immunization Program at 735-7143.