Whooping cough used to be thought of as a disease of the past, but it’s making a comeback – and 2014 is on track to be a busy year!
There are many factors contributing to the current resurgence of whooping cough. The best protection is to get vaccinated against it. While offering protection, the whooping cough vaccines used now do not protect people for as long as healthcare professionals would like. Additionally, doctors are more aware that whooping cough is still around and affecting communities. This raised awareness, along with better tests to diagnose patients, has contributed to an increase in the number of whooping cough cases being diagnosed and reported.
Whooping cough can take a toll on anyone, but it can be deadly for babies. There are between 10,000 and 50,000 whooping cough cases reported each year in the United States, with about 10 to 20 infant deaths due to the disease. Most deaths are in babies too young to be protected by their own vaccination.
The best protection against whooping cough is the whooping cough vaccine. Babies, teens, adults, and pregnant women need to be vaccinated according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommended schedule.
For babies, protection against whooping cough can start before they are even born. During each pregnancy, women should get the Tdap vaccine, which is a shot combining protection against whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria. Antibodies will be passed to the baby, providing protection until he is old enough to receive his first whooping cough vaccine, and the mother will be protecting herself so she won’t spread whooping cough to her newborn.
Before her baby is born, a pregnant woman should talk to others about making sure they are up-to-date with the Tdap vaccine. This includes the baby’s father, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, babysitters and daycare staff. If someone is not up-to-date, they should get the whooping cough vaccine at least two weeks before coming in close contact with the new baby.
Babies begin their series of vaccines against whooping cough at 2 months of age with their first dose of DTaP. Like Tdap, this shot combines protection against whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria. The series is completed by getting additional doses at 4 months, 6 months, 15 through 18 months, and 4 through 6 years of age. Since the protection the DTaP vaccine provides young children decreases over time, preteens need the Tdap booster shot at 11 or 12 years old.
Even if you don’t have children or a baby on the way, you can help protect yourself and those who are vulnerable around you by ensuring your whooping cough vaccine is up-to-date. CDC recommends that all teens and adults who have never gotten the Tdap vaccine receive a dose.
Now is the time to do your part to protect yourself and your family from whooping cough. Visit the CDC website for more information, and talk to your doctor about the whooping cough vaccine today.