According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), last year, more than 21,000 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with whooping cough. This is the highest rate of whooping cough that the U.S. has seen in approximately 50 years. Currently, there is a whooping cough epidemic in California. Last year, in California, there were 8,300 cases of whooping cough and 10 babies died. Nationally, there were 26 deaths attributable to whooping cough.
Whooping cough, also known as Pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial infection. Once infected, it starts with symptoms that seem to be consistent with the common cold. However, within 10 to 12 days, it progresses. It can lead to weeks or months of coughing. It can also result in many devastating complications, such as pneumonia, dehydration, blindness, hearing loss, brain damage, seizures, or death. Infants have the highest risk of dying from this disease.
Those at highest risk, generally are those who have not yet be able to receive a high level of protection after receiving 3 doses of the pertussis vaccine. These include, but are not limited to:
* children who have not been vaccinated,
* children with delayed immunizations,
* children who are less than 6 months old
It is recommended that all children receive that whooping cough vaccine. This is offered as part of the Diphtheria-Tetanus-acellular Pertussis (DTaP) combination vaccine for children at ages 2, 4, 6, and 12-18 months old, with a booster at 4 to 5 years old. Additional recommendations are for children’s primary caregivers (moms, dads, grandparents, etc.) to receive the Tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine.
I recommend this for all of my patients, their parents, and the older kids (teenagers) at home. Funny enough, dads hate the idea of receiving any vaccines. I never thought I would hear so many grown men cry, “But doc, do you know I hate shots? Do you know the last time I got shots?” My usual reply is, “Yes, I understand. No one likes them. Since, it’s been so long, you are probably not protected against pertussis. Just remember, you’re not doing this for yourself; you’re doing this for your baby.”
As always, consult your doctor with any questions you have about this disease and/or its prevention.