“One of these cases involves an infant who contracted pertussis before he was due for the DTaP immunization, which provides protection against diphtheria and tetanus, as well as pertussis,” said Joshua Meyerson, MD, Medical Director for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. “Unprotected from the vaccine, he contracted the disease from someone in the community who has had a bad cough, probably not realizing it was whooping cough.”
Pertussis (whooping cough) is a highly infectious bacterial infection of the respiratory system which causes severe fits of coughing. According to Meyerson, many cases of pertussis appear in babies who are too young to receive the DTaP vaccine and they contract the disease from people who are not immunized. “National Infant Immunization Week is a good reminder to review your family’s immunization records and make sure everyone’s immunizations are up-to-date,” he said.
Children should receive the DTaP immunization at two, four, six and fifteen months and again between ages four and six years. The protection received from pertussis vaccinations administered in childhood begins to wear off after five to ten years, leaving preteens, teenagers, and adults at risk.
“The best way to help prevent preteens, teenagers, and adults from getting pertussis is to make sure they receive the Tdap booster shot. It also protects against tetanus and diphtheria.” All preteens and teenagers should receive a single Tdap booster between age 11 and 18. Adults up to age 65 can also get the Tdap booster to reduce their risk of getting whooping cough.
Whooping cough starts with a runny nose, mild fever, and mild cough, similar to a common cold. Then symptoms progress to severe spasms of coughing that can interfere with eating, drinking, and breathing. Infants and younger children often have more severe symptoms than older children, adolescents, and adults.
Anyone with whooping cough should stay home and away from public activities, including school, daycare, and work, to avoid exposing others. “They should be treated with certain antibiotic medications,” Meyerson said. “If given early enough, antibiotics can limit the spread of whooping cough to others. A course of preventive antibiotic therapy may also be recommended for other members of the household and other close contacts of a person being treated for whooping cough.”
In addition to making sure immunizations are up-to-date, everyone can help prevent the spread of whooping cough by taking the following precautions:
Contacting your health care provider if they have a prolonged or severe cough. Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death. They not only help protect vaccinated individuals, but also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases.
“In our grandparents’ time, before the discovery of vaccines, infectious diseases like polio, diphtheria, and pertussis were commonplace,” Meyerson said. “Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death. They not only help protect vaccinated individuals, but also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases.”
The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For more information, contact your local health department office or health care provider or visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines.