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Pertussis in Panama

Español: Tosferina en Panamá

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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 Salud (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). Real-time PCR, the primary pertussis diagnostic used in Panama, was implemented at the national reference laboratory in 2011 and expanded 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
    • Complete blood count with leukocytes more than 20,000 with lymphocytes more than 60% can guide suspicion for disease

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 [145 pages] (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. Booster doses are administered at 18 months (DTP/Hib) and 4 years (DTP). A single dose of Tdap is recommended for children at 10 years. Tdap can also be administered as a catch-up dose in children over 5 years with an incomplete vaccination history. A dose of Tdap is recommended for healthcare workers that care for newborns, persons responsible for childcare of newborns, as well as contacts of suspected cases of pertussis. In 2012 Tdap was recommended in the third trimester of every pregnancy.

View Panama’s complete vaccination schedule [6 pages] (in Spanish).

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