Pertussis: Still a Serious Threat
Pertussis is Highly Contagious but Preventable.
It is vaccine-preventable disease that is spread through the air by infectious respiratory droplets. It is caused by a bacterium called Bordetella pertussis, which is found in the mouth, nose and throat of the person infected with the disease. The milder form of the disease, which usually occurs in adults and older children, is often mistaken for the common cold or bronchitis and can be easily spread.
The disease is usually more severe in babies and young children, who will often experience severe coughing that can be followed by a “whooping” sound as they gasp for air. Oftentimes, coughing episodes can be so intense that vomiting follows. Pertussis also can lead to other serious complications, such as pneumonia, hospitalizations and even death.In recent years, about 92 percent of pertussis deaths have occurred in infants younger than 12 months of age.
Often considered to be a disease of the past, pertussis is in fact on the rise; in 2010, more than 22,000 provisional cases of pertussis, including 26 deaths associated with the disease, were reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).California declared a pertussis epidemic in June 2010. Throughout the year, more than 9,000 cases of pertussis were reported statewide, according to the California Department of Public Health. This is the greatest number of cases reported in 65 years and the highest incidence in 52 years. Moreover, 10 infants in California died from pertussis in 2010, compared to three in 2009.
“It’s important that adults, particularly ones in close contact with babies, understand that pertussis remains a threat that needs to be taken seriously,” said Dr. Fleischman. “They need to be aware that the disease burden of pertussis is believed to be substantially more than what is reported.This is because pertussis often is undiagnosed, misdiagnosed and unreported. Estimates suggest that there may be as many as 800,000 to 3.3 million adult and adolescent cases of pertussis in any given year.”
Immunity from childhood pertussis vaccinations wears off over time, after about five to 10 years.That’s why the CDC recommends that adults and adolescents, especially those in close contact with an infant, receive a single dose of a Tdap vaccine.(11) If you’re pregnant and have never had a pertussis booster vaccine, talk to your health-care provider about the best time for you to receive the vaccine, because there have been some recent updates to the recommendations. For the most current CDC guidelines, please visit (https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/provisional/default.htm).(12)