Whooping Cough Found in Three Unvaccinated Infants

October 29, 2015

Health Officials Warn Parents to Get Infants Vaccinated on Schedule

Louisville has recently seen three PCR positive cases of whooping cough (pertussis) in unvaccinated infants six months of age and younger.  This is highly unusual. The Department of Public Health and Wellness urges parents to get their children immunized on schedule.

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. In infants, the cough can be minimal or not even there. Infants may also display apnea, a pause in the child's breathing pattern and in some cases may even turn blue. About half of infants younger than 1 year who get the disease need care in the hospital. 

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 age 11.

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

Parents of infants and all people who live with or provide care for 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.