Whooping Cough cases in infants spike

September 28, 2017
Officials warn parents to immunize infants on schedule. Parents, caregivers and siblings should also get a whooping cough booster

The Department of Public Health and Wellness is seeing a dramatic spike in whooping cough (pertussis) cases in infants one year of age and younger. From Sept.1-26, there were six cases in infants 12 months of age and younger.

“It is vitally important for infants to get their immunizations against whooping cough on schedule,” said Public Health and Wellness director, Dr. Sarah Moyer.  “In children this age, the disease can be very serious and even deadly.”

Whooping cough — known medically as pertussis — is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. Although it initially resembles an ordinary cold, whooping cough may eventually turn more serious, particularly in infants and young children. In infants, the cough can be minimal or non-existent. Infants may also display apnea, a pause in their breathing pattern, and in some cases may even turn blue. About half of infants younger than 1 year who get the disease need hospital care.

The best way to prevent whooping cough is through vaccinations. The childhood vaccine is called DTaP. The whooping cough booster vaccine for adolescents and adults is called Tdap. Both DTaP and Tdap protect against whooping cough, tetanus and diphtheria.

The Department of Public Health and Wellness advises parents and physicians that infants should receive a series of DTaP immunizations at ages 2, 4, and 6 months, with boosters at ages 15-18 months and at 4-6 years. Children should then get a single dose of Tdap vaccine at 11 to 12 years of age. Pregnant women should receive a single dose of Tdap during every pregnancy, preferably at 27 through 36 weeks.

Parents of infants and all people who live with an infant or who provide care to an infant should also be immunized against whooping cough. It is recommended that the infant's family members receive a one-time dose of adolescent/adult tetanus-diphtheria-acellular (Tdap) vaccine if they have not already done so.

“Even if parents and care givers have been immunized against whooping cough as children,” said Dr. Moyer, “vaccines can wear off over a period of time. Parents and care givers can then infect young children.”

Parents should check with their physicians to see if their child has been immunized against whooping cough.  Parents who do not have health insurance should contact the Department of Public Health and Wellness at 574-6520.

Dr. Moyer will be available to answer reporter questions at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, September 29 at 400 E. Gray St.