Take Action – Stopping Whooping Cough in its Tracks.

“They think it’s pertussis,” my colleague managed to spit out between coughing fits.

Heavily pregnant, my due date within weeks, I couldn’t remember when I’d last had a booster vaccine. What would it mean for my newborn baby if I was infected with pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough?

I moved away from the group quickly, beyond angry  at being exposed to pertussis by my colleague, but also angry at myself for letting my immunity wane and not being up to date with my whooping cough booster shot. (Tdap – Tetanus-Diphtheria-Pertussis)

The advent of a Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (DTaP) vaccine in the 1940s led to massive declines in whooping cough cases and deaths. But in recent years there has been an upswing in outbreaks throughout the United States as rates of vaccination decline. Last year in California 9, 143 cases were reported; in Maricopa County, almost 700 cases, and in Pima County, 33 cases.

Dr. Sterling Simpson, pediatric pulmonary specialist with Children’s Pulmonary Specialists, doesn’t mince his words when it comes to talking about whooping cough,

Whooping cough can be a lethal disease, especially to infants.

Whooping cough, pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. Characterized by the ‘whooping’ sharp intake of air victims take after fits of coughing, whooping cough is particularly difficult for infants. The first vaccination is given at the two month check up, and infants less than two months are particularly at risk. Dr. Simpson urges parents to immunize their children on schedule,

All infants should be vaccinated. It takes a series of shots to fully immunize a child, and if one delays, or refuses to vaccinate, a child is exposed to a serious disease that is becoming more and more common in our area.

Whooping cough is an awful disease. It causes extreme respiratory distress and the worse intractable coughing spells you have ever witnessed.  Even if they survive the illness, it’s difficult to see an infant suffer with such a painful and uncomfortable disease.

The crux of this is whooping cough can kill. Late last month, here in Arizona, an infant died as a result of whooping cough. Too young to be  fully immunized, this baby may have been exposed to the highly contagious disease in all manner of avenues including contamination from a passing stranger. This isn’t just about vaccinating our children against whooping cough, it is also about older children and adults maintaining immunity by receiving a booster shot.

Infants need their full series of vaccinations, and adults who work with children and health care workers need boosters. Seniors should get boosters, and especially if they have beautiful little grandkids for whom they will be caring. This is a preventable disease and it’s up to us as to do our part to stop its spread.

Have you had your pertussis (Tdap) booster? Can you be sure that you will not expose an infant to whooping cough? Do your bit, and call your doctor today and schedule your pertussis booster shot. See below for the CDC Vaccination Recommendations

Dr. Sterling Simpson  is a recent migrant to Tucson from Knoxville, Tenn., where he practiced at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. He now practices at Children’s Pulmonary Specialists.

“I believe even the youngest of patients deserve a doctor’s respect, kindness and individual attention. This helps foster trust and lasting relationships with my patients, and this in turn helps relax the entire family. I understand how stressful it can be to have a sick child and try to do my best to help parents feel well treated, educated and cared for properly.”

CDC Pertussis Vaccination Recommendations: 

  • Infants and children should receive five doses of the DTaP vaccine at 2, 4 and 6 months, at 15 through 18 months, and at 4 through 6 years. All five doses are needed for maximum protection. Children 7-10 years of age who are not fully vaccinated with DTaP should receive a dose of Tdap instead of waiting for the 11-12 year old check up.
  • Adolescents should receive the Tdap vaccine at their regular check-up at age 11 or 12. If teenagers (13 through 18 years) missed getting the Tdap vaccine, parents should ask the doctor about getting it for them now.
  • Adults who are 19 through 64 years old should get a 1-time dose of Tdap in place of the Tetanus Diphtheria (Td) booster they’re recommended to receive every 10 years. No need to wait until you are due for your Td booster—the dose of Tdap can be given earlier than the 10-year mark since the last Td booster. It’s a good idea for adults to talk to a healthcare provider about what’s best for their specific situation.
  • Pregnant women who have not been previously vaccinated with Tdap should get one dose of Tdap during the third trimester or late second trimester – or immediately postpartum, before leaving the hospital or birthing center. By getting Tdap during pregnancy, maternal pertussis antibodies transfer to the newborn, likely providing protection against pertussis in early life, before the baby starts getting DTaP vaccines. Tdap will also protect the mother at time of delivery, making her less likely to transmit pertussis to her infant.
  • Adults 65 years and older who have not previously received a dose of Tdap and have close contact with infants should receive one dose of Tdap. Other adults in this age group who have not previously received a dose of Tdap and will not have close contact with infants may receive a dose of Tdap. Receiving Tdap may be especially important during a community outbreak and/or if caring for an infant

Recommendations retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/outbreaks-faqs.html May 6th, 2012.

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