LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Nov. 17, 2012, more than 36,000 cases of pertussis and 16 pertussis-related deaths were reported this year.
The Department of the Air Force mandated all personnel to receive the tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis, or TDAP, vaccine as part of every Airman’s individual medical readiness in June, 2012.
The TDAP vaccine was licensed in 2005, and is the first vaccine to protect against pertussis as well as tetanus and diphtheria.
All Airmen who have not received their TDAP vaccination by Jan 1, 2012 will be considered overdue, and therefore ineligible to deploy.
“It was discovered that immunity to these diseases, pertussis in particular, waned after time,” said Dr. [Lt. Col.] Teresa Nesselroad, 633rd Medical Operations Squadron allergist. “The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices made a recommendation that all American citizens get the TDAP vaccine.”
The ACIP provides advice and guidance on effective control of vaccine-preventable diseases, and develops written recommendations for routine administration of vaccines.
Although the extent of tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis may not be common knowledge, they can be very serious diseases.
All three diseases are caused by bacteria. Diphtheria and pertussis are spread from person to person. Tetanus enters the body through cuts, scratches or wounds.
Pertussis can also cause serious illness in infants, children and adults. The disease begins like the common cold, with congestion, sneezing and a possible mild cough or fever. But severe coughing can start after one to two weeks.
Unlike the common cold, pertussis can become a series of coughing fits that can continue for weeks, causing violent and rapid coughing. The fits can go on until the air is gone from the lungs and those infected are forced to inhale with a loud “whooping” sound. In infants, the cough can be minimal. They may instead have life-threatening pauses in breathing.
Pertussis is usually spread by coughing or sneezing while in close contact. Many infants who get pertussis are infected by parents, siblings or other caregivers who may be unaware they have the disease, further demonstrating the importance of the TDAP vaccine.
“This vaccine is recommended not only to protect your health, but the health of those around you,” said Nesselroad.
For more information on the TDAP vaccine, visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov. To get vaccinated, visit your local immunizations office.