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30th Medical Group poised for whooping cough

People should wash hands frequently with soap and warm water or sanitize them with an alcohol-based hand rub to prevent flu infection, according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention officials. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Laura Suttles)

Hand washing is the best way to prevent infections and the spread of illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Wash your hands with soap and hot water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer for at least 15 to 20 seconds, making sure to scrub all surfaces. The CDC recommends washing hands before and after preparing food or handling uncooked meat and poultry, before eating, after changing diapers or using the restroom, after touching or working with animals and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Laura Suttles)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- This year, health professionals nationwide are seeing many more cases of pertussis or "whooping cough" than in previous years--in fact more than they have seen since the 1950's. Whooping cough is a serious and highly contagious respiratory disease that can cause long, violent coughing fits and a characteristic "whooping" sound when a person gasps for air. It takes a toll on anyone, but for infants and the elderly--it can be deadly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), widespread immunization against pertussis is the most effective way to protect our society's more susceptible members.

Most school-age children and young adults today are already well protected by the childhood whooping cough vaccine (DTaP) and the adolescent vaccine (TDaP). However, middle-aged adults are increasingly susceptible to this new resurgence of the disease. Healthy adults will usually experience little more than a cold with a long nagging cough, but the germs are easily spread when the infected person coughs or sneezes. So it's very important to avoid close contact with infants and the elderly if you have these symptoms.

With rising numbers of whooping cough in the U.S., the CDC has recently recommended all adults receive an additional booster. Anyone who has not had a booster shot since their last TDaP immunization as a teenager, should get the booster. This initiative will further prevent spreading of the disease and allow a phenomenon known as "herd immunity" to protect those most susceptible (if there's no place for the disease to take hold, everyone is protected--even if they're not vaccinated).

The 30th Medical Group has just received 900 doses of TDaP, with more vaccine on order. Health officials here are developing plans to offer mass vaccination in the very near future, beginning with mission essential personnel and those at highest risk first. Active duty servicemembers will be the first large group to receive the adult TDaP booster and there is no reason to expect any significant mission impact either from the disease or from the vaccination process.

To prevent the spread of illness, here's what you can do:
1) Stay at home if you're sick and avoid close contact with infants
2) Wash your hands frequently with soap and hot water, or an alcohol-based
hand sanitizer
3) Cover your mouth with an elbow or handkerchief when coughing or sneezing

For more information about whooping cough or the TDaP vaccine, please visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on the web:

You may also contact the 30 MDG Public Health office at 606-0648.