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Pertussis case at Ellsworth Air Force Base


A child who participates in the Ellsworth Air Force Base Youth Program has been diagnosed with pertussis, which is also called whooping cough.


Pertussis is a common respiratory infection caused by bacteria.  While there is no need for alarm, care should be taken to avoid the illness. 


Parents should keep children away from individuals with a weakened immune system, such as infants, the elderly, or anyone who has been informed by their medical provider that they have a weakened immune system.


The pertussis bacterium is usually spread from person to person by coughing or sneezing or sharing breathing space.  Infected individuals are most contagious from onset of symptoms to three weeks after the cough begins. 


Early symptoms of pertussis resemble a common cold, including a runny nose, low grade fever, and mild or occasional cough, but about two weeks later, the cough may turn so severe that the person sometimes vomits or gasps for air -- creating a sound like a high-pitched “whoop.” Coughing fits due to pertussis can last for up to 10 weeks.


Pertussis is treated with antibiotics, and there is an available vaccine that is given in combination with tetanus and diphtheria (DTaP for children seven and under and Tdap for adolescents and adults). Vaccine efficacy is greater than 80 percent when children receive the entire five dose series.  Though anyone can contract pertussis, it is particularly serious for children less than 12 months of age.


Parents are recommended to ensure their children have their immunizations and to call the appointment line at (605) 385-6700 to talk to a nurse if they are sick or have a severe cough. For more information on pertussis, please visit the CDC’s website at