Thousands of children and adults lost their lives to pertussis--commonly known as “whooping cough”--each year, in the years before effective vaccines became readily available. But despite today's proven success and availability of pertussis vaccination, many people remain unvaccinated, which places them at extreme risk of contracting and spreading this highly contagious bacterial disease.
“The most important thing parents can do to protect their children from illnesses like pertussis is to get their infants vaccinated, and follow the schedule for booster doses as their babies grow,” advised Joshua Meyerson, M.D., medical director for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. Dr. Meyerson added that, although vaccination has substantially reduced the number of pertussis cases, the disease remains a threat.
“It can be a very serious illness,” he said. “It's also important for family members of young babies to get a pertussis booster shot, so they're protected from the illness and don't pass it on to infants.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), increased pertussis activity or outbreaks were reported in a majority of U.S. states during the first half of 2012. The agency says nearly 18,000 cases have been reported nationwide so far this year – more than twice the number reported in 2011 – and nine infants have died. In April, the state of Washington declared a pertussis epidemic.
The CDC also noted that more than half of the infants who contract pertussis at less than one year of age require hospital care. Dr. Meyerson said infants should receive four (4) doses of pertussis vaccine by the time they reach 18 months of age, and recommends a routine booster dose before they begin kindergarten. He also warns that the protection offered by diptheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) boosters can fade over time, meaning pre-teens (starting routinely at age 11) should get a DTaP dose. Adults who did not receive a DTaP dose in their earlier years--particularly healthcare workers, or those who are around infants, including relatives and daycare providers--should also obtain a booster dose as soon as possible.
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 or to schedule an appointment, contact the Health Department of Northwest Michigan at (800) 432-4121.