Pertussis in Panama

map of Panama


In January 2010, CDC-Latin American Pertussis Project conducted an initial assessment of the pertussis surveillance system and laboratory capacity in Panama. Panama’s Ministry of Health uses a standardized notification form and case definitions for pertussis (known as tos ferina). Both the national reference laboratory in Panama City, Instituto Conmemorativo Gorgas de Estudios de la SaludExternal (in Spanish), and the Hospital José Domingo de Obaldia in the Province of Chiriquí have laboratory capacity in culture and real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Panama’s national reference laboratory implemented real-time PCR as the primary pertussis diagnostic in 2011 and expanded this capacity to Chiriquí in 2013.

Case Definition

The case definition for a suspected case of pertussis includes all age groups:

  • In absence of a more likely diagnosis, a cough illness lasting for at least 14 days and at least one of the following symptoms:
    • Paroxysmal cough (coughing fits)
    • Inspiratory stridor
    • Posttussive vomiting

Pertussis cases are confirmed if they meet the case definition and have positive laboratory confirmation (by culture or real-time PCR) or are linked epidemiologically to a laboratory-confirmed case, as specified in Panama’s pertussis surveillance guidelines Cdc-pdf[23 pages]External (in Spanish).

Vaccine Abbreviations
  • DTP – Diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and whole cell pertussis vaccine
  • DTaP – Diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine
  • Tdap – Tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine
  • HB – Hepatitis B vaccine
  • Hib – Haemophilus influenzae serotype b vaccine
  • IPV – Inactivated polio virus vaccine

Immunization Program

Panama’s routine pertussis immunization program changed in 2014 from a pentavalent vaccine which contained DTP (whole cell pertussis component), HB, and Hib, to a hexavalent, which contains DTaP (acellular pertussis component), IPV, HB, and Hib, administered at 2, 4, and 6 months. Panama’s Ministry of Health recommends booster doses at 18 months (DTP/Hib) and 4 years (DTP). They also recommend a single dose of Tdap for children at 10 years. Clinicians can also administer Tdap  as a catch-up dose in children over 5 years with an incomplete vaccination history. The Ministry of Health recommends a dose of Tdap for healthcare workers that care for newborns, persons responsible for childcare of newborns, contacts of suspected cases of pertussis, and adults between 60-64 years of age. In 2012, they recommended Tdap be given in the third trimester of every pregnancy.

View Panama’s complete vaccination schedule Cdc-pdf[8 pages]External (in Spanish).

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