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Whooping cough may threaten local residents

The shield of the 30th Medical Group, Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

The shield of the 30th Medical Group, Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- With whooping cough on the rise in California, it's hard to know when a cough is just a cough or is something much worse. Public health officials and base medical group personnel, who are worried about the staggering number of possible cases, are urging people who suspect a case of whooping cough, to visit the clinic as soon as possible.

Whooping cough, medically termed Pertussis, has increased five-fold when compared to the same time period in 2009, said Staff Sgt. Maletta Chan, a 30th Medical Group public health technician.

Characteristics of whooping cough include a cough lasting many weeks. It is typically manifested in children with paroxysmal spasms of severe coughing, whooping, and posttussive vomiting according to the Center for Disease Control.

This highly infectious and vaccine-preventable disease, has affected more than 1,300 people in California since the start of 2010. Luckily for the local residents, only eight cases have been confirmed in Santa Barbara County.

"The low number of cases in Santa Barbara County and particularly on base can be attributed to the military's healthcare system," said Sergeant Chan. "The 30th Medical Group has programs in place to ensure that members get their vaccinations when they are due for them."

Vaccination for whooping cough begins when an infant is two months old with a five-booster vaccination sequence. The vaccinations continue on a set schedule throughout childhood and are required every 10 years for military members.

Children, especially infants, are among those most susceptible to the disease due to their immune systems being not fully developed. Since infants cannot be vaccinated until they are two months old, it's important family members are also current on their vaccinations, said Sergeant Chan.

"The best way to prevent whooping cough is to get vaccinated when you're supposed to," said Sergeant Chan. "Proper hygiene, such as washing your hands and covering up your cough, can also help stop the spread of the disease."

For more information on whooping cough, call the 30th MDG public health office at 606-0648.