Whooping Cough on the Rise: How to Protect Your Family

(StatePoint) Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly-contagious and vaccine-preventable disease that has made a startling comeback across the country. It is currently responsible for causing the worst epidemic the U.S. has seen in 50 years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including 13 deaths.

“Immunization is still the best way to help prevent the spread of pertussis”, says Siobhan Dolan, MD, MPH, an obstetrician/gynecologist and medical advisor to March of Dimes. “It’s important for both children and adults to be up-to-date with their pertussis immunization.”

Researchers have found that immunity from childhood pertussis vaccinations wears off over time, so the pertussis shots that most adults received as children may no longer fully protect them. The adult Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis) booster vaccine is recommended for adults to help keep them healthy and help prevent them from spreading diseases to others, especially children. The CDC recently updated its immunization guidelines, which now state that all adults aged 19 years and older who have not yet received a dose of Tdap should receive a single dose.

“Research has shown that when the source of a baby’s pertussis can be identified, it’s traced back to family members in up to 80 percent of cases,” Dr. Dolan explained. “So it’s imperative for parents to know that everyone around their baby — parents, friends, caregivers, grandparents — needs to have an adult Tdap booster vaccine.”

According to a survey conducted online in May 2012 by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Sounds of Pertussis Campaign, a joint initiative from Sanofi Pasteur and March of Dimes, more than 4 out of 5 parents with children ages 2 and younger (83 percent) believe adult vaccination is important to help protect against the spread of pertussis, but only 19 percent reported asking those in regular contact with their child to get a Tdap booster shot.

“The reason is probably because most parents — 61 percent — said they would feel awkward asking those in close contact with their infants to get an adult Tdap booster shot, according to the survey,” said Dr. Dolan.

“Parents want to do all they can to keep their babies healthy and to protect them from danger,” she added. “Speak to your friends and family about getting a pertussis booster. That simple ‘ask’ will help protect them and your baby from this potentially fatal disease.”

More information about pertussis and the Sounds of Pertussis Campaign can be found online at www.SoundsofPertussis.com.

And remember, although whooping cough may be on the rise nationwide, there are simple steps you can take to help protect your family: get your booster shot now and encourage those around you to do the same.

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