Rising whooping cough rate prompts recommendation for booster shots

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is at epidemic levels in Minnesota, with outbreaks occurring in communities throughout the state. More than 1,750 pertussis cases have already been reported in Minnesota this year (over 700 in Hennepin County alone through August 31). The increased incidence is occurring statewide and in all age groups, and Minnesota is on track to exceed 3,400 cases in 2012, the highest number of cases since the 1940s. Faced with this significantly rising number of cases, the Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support is urging City employees to get a one-time pertussis booster vaccination (Tdap) to protect themselves and their families from this illness.

Pertussis is a highly contagious disease caused by bacteria that affects the lungs. It is spread through the air in droplets produced during coughing or sneezing, and typically starts with cold-like symptoms that can include a runny nose, congestion, fever and a mild cough. But after one to two weeks, severe coughing can begin. Unlike the common cold, pertussis can become a series of coughing fits that continues for weeks. Pertussis can cause violent and rapid coughing, over and over, until the air is gone from the lungs and forcing the patient to inhale with a loud "whooping" sound.

Pertussis can strike people of any age, but is most dangerous to infants. Vaccination efforts are critical for controlling disease and protecting vulnerable infants who are too young to be fully vaccinated and for whom the disease is typically more serious.  While employees who are pregnant or are close contacts of infants should make it a priority to get the pertussis booster vaccine, all employees should take action to boost their immunity that has waned since childhood vaccination.

The best way to prevent pertussis is for all children to be fully vaccinated per the recommended vaccination schedule and for adolescents and adults to get a booster shot. Most adults have likely had only Td (tetanus and diphtheria) vaccination (which continues to be recommended every 10 years) and now should obtain the one-time Tdap vaccination to add pertussis protection. There is no minimum interval for teens and adults to wait between their last Td and Tdap vaccination.

The Center for Disease Control advises parents to see a doctor if they or their children develop a prolonged or severe cough. Whooping cough is treated with antibiotics, the earlier the better.

For more information about pertussis, visit http://www.cdc.gov/features/pertussis/ or http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/pertussis/pfacts.html#pertussis.

 

Published Sep. 12, 2012