The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices released issued new recommendations to encourage pregnant women to get the whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine (Tdap) during their pregnancy.  Since most kids get whooping cough from a close family member, vaccinating parents (and teens) is one of the best ways to prevent infants, especially those who are too young to be fully protected from this life threatening infection.  Whooping cough cases have been increasing in AZ again this year, with over 900 cases as of a couple of weeks ago…  103 more than during the same time last year and 4 times more than we have in a typical year. 

There are many things contributing to the high rate of whooping cough in AZ and nationally. Symptoms are non-specific during the first two weeks- usually just a cough that won’t go away. Providers might not identify the case until weeks later when cough intensifies and the more classic signs like “whoop” are noticed. Even then, doc’s may not be able to diagnose it if the sick person looks fine during the office visit (if they’re between coughing fits). Whether the doctor is able to diagnose the patient or not, the person may have already infected others and the disease continues to spread. 

This leads to school or community outbreaks, especially in areas with low vaccination rates. This year, one outbreak has been ongoing since May.  Routine vaccination – given as DTaP in children or Tdap in adults – is important for preventing future outbreaks from occurring.  Talk to your doctor about pertussis vaccine – particularly if you spend a lot of time with babies.  Remember, the best gift for your children this holiday is to get vaccinated!