Immunize for Pertussis: A Reminder During Immunization Awareness Month

Did you know there is an outbreak of pertussis in California right now that has reached epidemic proportions? In the first five months of 2014, almost 3,500 cases have been reported, which is more than in all of 2013.

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a bacterial illness that causes severe coughing fits in infected people, including apnea (stopping breathing) in infants. The possible complications of pertussis include pneumonia and seizures, and infection can also lead to brain damage or death. Immunization is the best defense against this potentially fatal disease.  Infants too young for vaccination are the most vulnerable to this preventable disease - most of the pertussis hospitalizations in California have been infants aged four months and younger. Two infants have died so far. 

To prevent deaths like these, along with immunizing infants, ThedaCare and other healthcare organizations practice “cocooning,” vaccinating pregnant moms and all the people around the baby. This includes dad, grandparents and other relatives, friends and neighbors, babysitters and other caregivers. If you have a young baby, make sure your child gets immunized against pertussis with DtaP vaccine, and ask anyone who has close contact with your child if he or she has gotten a pertussis vaccine lately. If you have frequent contact with an infant less than 1 year old, you should get a single dose of Tdap, the pertussis vaccine, to help protect these vulnerable little ones.

By Dr. Hilary Webster, pediatrician, ThedaCare Physicians-Pediatrics in Appleton