Pertussis (Whooping Cough) is a serious and highly contagious disease. It is on the rise again in the U.S. The following message,about Pertussis, is from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Pertussis Vaccine Protection
There is high pertussis vaccine coverage for children nationwide. However, protection from the childhood vaccine decreases over time. Preteens, teens and adults need to be re-vaccinated, even if they were completely vaccinated as children.
Also, pertussis vaccines are very effective but not 100% effective [PDF - 140KB]. If pertussis is circulating in the community, there is still a chance that a fully vaccinated person can catch this very contagious disease. When you or your child develops a cold that includes a prolonged or severe cough, it may be pertussis. The best way to know is to contact your doctor.
Pertussis can cause serious illness in infants, children and adults. The disease starts like the common cold, with runny nose or congestion, sneezing, and maybe mild cough or fever. But after 1–2 weeks, severe coughing can begin.
Unlike the common cold, pertussis can become a series of coughing fits that continues for weeks. Pertussis can cause violent and rapid coughing, over and over, until the air is gone from the lungs and you are forced to inhale with a loud “whooping” sound. In infants, the cough can be minimal or not even there.
Pregnant? Protect Yourself & Your Baby from Pertussis
When the source of whooping cough was identified, mothers were responsible for 30-40% of infant infections.
If you have not been previously vaccinated with Tdap (the whooping cough booster shot), talk with your doctor about getting one dose of Tdap, preferably during the third trimester or late second trimester. Learn more about vaccine protection for pertussis.
Infants may have a symptom known as “apnea.” Apnea is a pause in the child’s breathing pattern. If your baby is having trouble breathing, take him to a hospital or doctor right away.
Pertussis is most severe for babies; more than half of infants younger than 1 year of age who get the disease must be hospitalized. About 1 in 4 infants with pertussis get pneumonia (lung infection), and about two thirds will have slowed or stopped breathing. Pertussis can be deadly for 1 or 2 infants per 100 who are hospitalized. Learn how pertussis can be treated.
How Pertussis Spreads
People with pertussis usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria. Many infants who get pertussis are infected by parents, older siblings, or other caregivers who might not even know they have the disease.
Reported cases of pertussis vary from year to year and tend to peak every 3-5 years. In 2010, 27,550 cases of pertussis were reported in the U.S.—and many more cases go unreported. Twenty-seven deaths were reported – 25 of these deaths were in children younger than 1 year old.
The best way to prevent pertussis is to get vaccinated. Parents can also help protect infants by keeping them away as much as possible from anyone who has cold symptoms or is coughing.
For Infants and Children: In the US, the recommended pertussis vaccine for children is called DTaP. This is a safe and effective combination vaccine that protects children against three diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.
For maximum protection against pertussis, children need five DTaP shots. The first three shots are given at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. The fourth shot is given at 15 through 18 months of age, and a fifth shot is given when a child enters school, at 4 through 6 years of age. If a 7-10 year old is not up-to-date with DTaP vaccines, a dose of Tdap should be given before the 11-12 year old check up.
For Preteens and Teens: Vaccine protection for pertussis, tetanus, and diphtheria can decrease with time. Preteens going to the doctor for their regular check-up at age 11 or 12 years should get a booster vaccine, called Tdap. Teens and young adults who didn’t get a booster of Tdap as a preteen should get one dose when they visit their health care provider.
For Pregnant Women: 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.
For Adults: Adults 19 years of age and older who didn’t get Tdap as a preteen or teen should get one dose of Tdap. Getting vaccinated with Tdap at least two weeks before coming into close contact with an infant is especially important for families with and caregivers of new infants.
The easiest thing for adults to do is to get Tdap instead of their next regular tetanus booster—the Td shot that is recommended for adults every 10 years. The dose of Tdap can be given earlier than the 10-year mark, so it’s a good idea for adults to talk to a health care provider about what’s best for their specific situation.