NEWS Improving and Protecting the Health, Well-Being
and Self-Reliance of All Montanans.

April 30, 2012

Pertussis outbreaks continue to occur throughout Montana

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) reports that outbreaks of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, are being reported in several areas of Montana and is urging vaccines for all children and adults to help prevent the disease.

Since January 2012, nearly 90 cases of pertussis have been reported statewide, compared to approximately 50 cases for the same period last year. Recent cases have been reported in Broadwater, Gallatin, Lewis and Clark, Ravalli, and Stillwater counties. Local and state public health officials are concerned that the number of reported cases will continue to increase unless people take action to protect themselves and others.

According to DPHHS health officials, pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory illness spread by coughing and sneezing, but one that may be prevented by getting vaccinated. Although it initially resembles an ordinary cold, pertussis can turn more serious, particularly in infants. Over half of infants diagnosed will require hospitalization.

Washington State has reported a large increase in reported pertussis, with nearly 800 cases reported over the last 4 months.

Montana health officials do not want what is occurring in Washington State to happen here.

“Most cases of pertussis are preventable,” said DPHHS Director Anna Whiting Sorrell. “All parents and caregivers of children need to make sure their children are up to date on this and other vaccines. Anyone who cares for children should also be up to date on their vaccinations to prevent spreading pertussis.”

People who are vaccinated are unlikely to become ill after an exposure or spread the illness to others.
Local health jurisdictions with recent cases are working hard to control or stop the spread of the disease. Close environments such as schools and daycares are ideal for easily and quickly spreading pertussis and present challenges to health officials. “We encourage parents to not send children who are ill to schools and daycares because pertussis spreads quickly in these settings,” said Karl Milhon, manager of the DPHHS Communicable Disease Program.

Pertussis vaccination begins at age two months, but young infants are not adequately protected until they have received a series of vaccinations.  Because protection from the vaccine can fade over time, a booster is recommended for pre-kindergarten age, pre-teens, teens, and adults.

More information is available from local health providers and public health departments, or go to