Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"Cocoon" your baby!

Kansas is currently having a whooping cough outbreak. KDHE announced earlier this month that Kansas is having an increase in pertussis, with 156 cases recently reported in Johnson county by health providers and 56 of them so far  confirmed by laboratory studies.   I have been trying to remind all of the expecting parents I see to "cocoon their infant" away from whooping cough by making sure that all persons who will be near their newborn is vaccinated against pertussis.  
Whooping cough (pertussis) is an infection of the respiratory system caused by the bacteria "Bordatella Pertussis".  It's characterized by severe coughing spells which sometimes end in a "whoop" sound when the person breaths in.  It mainly affects infants younger than 6 months old, before they have been adequately protected by immunizations.  About 3,000 cases of infant pertussis are reported per year in the US, with more than 19 deaths yearly according to the CDC.  Most of these deaths and hospitalizations are in infants younger than 2 months old, who have yet to receive any vaccine to protect them from the disease.  Most of these infants contract the disease from a close family member.  
Even persons who were fully immunized as a child can contract pertussis as an adult, because immunity to the disease wanes over time.  That is why the CDC recommends "cocooning" your infant.  "Cocooning" is the strategy of immunizing all the persons around a newborn so as to protect them from contacting pertussis.   This includes the expecting mother-- immunization with the Tdap vaccine is recommended after the 20th week of pregnancy or immediately after delivery.  
As is the case with all immunization schedules, there are important time intervals, exceptions, and circumstances for receiving the Tdap vaccine.  Expecting families should talk to their obstetric provider or pediatrician to find out who needs to receive the vaccine.  

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