The U.S. is in the midst of the worst outbreak of whooping cough since 1959, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Almost 18,000 cases have been reported so far this year with nine infant deaths. Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a bacterial infection that starts with mild cold symptoms and progresses to coughing fits that can make it hard to breathe. Infants may have few symptoms and are at risk for pneumonia or apnea (temporary cessation of breathing).
The best way to prevent pertussis is through vaccination. Most children who have received their primary vaccine series are well protected, but this protection wears off over time. Teens and adults need a booster shot, called Tdap. In addition, it is recommended that pregnant women receive a booster in their third trimester or soon after giving birth. Other adult caregivers or close contacts of newborns such as grandparents or babysitters should also receive a booster to protect the baby from possible exposure to disease.
California law now requires all students entering the 7th grade to show proof of a Tdap booster before starting school. As your children head back to school this fall, make sure their immunizations are up to date, including the Tdap booster!