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August 2010 | 0 Comments | Print

Protect yourself against whooping cough

Pertussis is a highly contagious, vaccine-preventable disease commonly referred to as “whooping cough.” Anyone can get pertussis, especially infants who are less than six months old and have not yet received the pertussis vaccine. Infants get the vaccine series from their physician at two months, four months and six months of age. The fourth dose is given at 12-16 months of age. The final dose is given at four to six years of age. Immunity against pertussis begins to wear off by early adolescence. 

Pertussis statistics

  • In 2004-2005, 66 deaths from pertussis were reported.
  • 90 percent of reported pertussis deaths are among infants less than four months of age four.
  • In 2006, 15,632 cases of pertussis were reported in the United States
  • The true incidence of pertussis is most likely even greater as studies indicate only one-third of cases are reported. 

Recognizing symptoms in infants, adolescents and adults

An infant may not have the same symptoms of pertussis as an adult and may require a physician or hospital visit. Infant symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing (apnea)
  • Slowed heart rate (bradycardia)
  • Poor feeding: vomiting

In adolescents and adults, symptoms can be very mild and may resemble the common cold. Any cough lasting greater than 10 days may be pertussis. Early symptoms include:

  • Prolonged intermittent cough
  • Runny nose

Vaccinations protect you and your family

By getting vaccinated and protecting yourself, you also protect your infant and family. The pertussis vaccine is called Adacel (Sanofi Pasteur) and is also referred to as TDAP (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Acellular Pertussis). Acellular means this is not a live virus vaccine. Side effects are similar to other vaccinations, such as td tetanus. Your primary care physician can provide you with information about getting the pertussis vaccine.

Learn more about what vaccines can help protect you and your family at

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