Adult Pertussis Vaccination Keeps Entire Family Healthy  

Failure to vaccinate can lead to prolonged illness in adults, possible death of infants

DAYTON, Ohio (June 17, 2014) – There isn’t much a parent wouldn’t do to keep their children safe. However, making sure the entire family is vaccinated against pertussis – a serious upper respiratory illness – isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind.

“We do find that a lot of the time adults don’t like to get vaccinations and simply don’t think they need them,” said Breanna Veal, MHS, PA-C, with Associated Specialists of Internal Medicine in Centerville. “Many of them don’t count the cost that an illness like pertussis can have not only on themselves, but especially on the children and infants in their lives.”

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is highly contagious and is one of the most commonly occurring vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States, according to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). Pertussis is spread through person-to-person contact, usually when an infected person coughs or sneezes near others who can then breathe in the bacteria.  The illness is most severe for babies, who often catch the illness from a family member or caregiver. More than half of infants less than one year of age who get the disease must be hospitalized. In rare cases (one in 100), pertussis can be deadly, the ODH said.

“It is a deceptive disease because it presents as a common cold at first, causing a person to unknowingly spread it to those around them,” said Veal, who practices within Premier HealthNet. “It progressively gets worse, developing into a cough that sticks around for weeks and even months. Children exposed to the disease, who have not been fully vaccinated from it, experience it much more severely than adults. Their cough may be so vigorous that it can cause them to vomit, keep them from eating and even interrupt normal breathing.”

A rise in pertussis cases in recent years has caused health officials to push for increased education to adults about the importance of vaccination. In 2012, the highest number of pertussis cases was reported in the nation since 1955, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Here in Ohio, the number of reported cases jumped 20 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to the ODH.

The best defense against the disease’s spread is vaccination. There are pertussis vaccinations for infants, children, preteens, teens and adults. The childhood vaccination is called DTaP, and the pertussis booster vaccine for adolescents and adults is called Tdap. Tdap is a combination vaccination that also safeguards an adult from tetanus and diphtheria, a bacterial infection that causes a thick covering in the back of the throat and can lead to difficulty breathing, heart failure, paralysis and even death.

Because pertussis can make babies so sick, the CDC recommends parents take steps to keep them safe: pregnant women should get vaccinated with Tdap in their third trimester; parents should surround their baby with vaccinated family members and caregivers; and most importantly, parents should make sure that their child receives all doses of whooping cough vaccine.

Veal said adults who are unsure if they have received their pertussis vaccine should check with their primary care physician. When in doubt, adults should go ahead and receive the vaccine as there is no harm in receiving it twice, she said. She also adds that parents of adolescents should be mindful that children will need a pertussis booster around the time they enter seventh grade.

“We get outbreaks from time to time, and it will be in the news, so people are much more aware of how important this issue can be,” Veal said. “But then it seems as if it can become quickly forgotten. That’s why preventive care is so important, especially now that we have electronic medical records because a physician can stay on top of immunizations like this.”

For more information about the pertussis vaccination or to find a primary care physician, visit:

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