THURSDAY, Oct. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Recent outbreaks of
whooping cough highlight the need for adults to be vaccinated
against this highly contagious disease, U.S. health officials said
Not only does vaccination protect adults against the disease, it
reduces the odds that they will pass on an illness that can be
life-threatening to those most at risk: infants who haven't
finished their full vaccination series, according to the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
A whooping cough outbreak this year in California has already
sickened more than 5,270 infants and killed nine, the agency
reported. That rate of illness is the highest recorded in the state
since 1955, according to the California Department of Public
The best way to protect yourself and the infants you come into
contact from getting whooping cough -- also known as pertussis --
is the tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine, the CDC
"A pertussis booster shot is essential to prevent the spread of pertussis to infants," said infectious disease expert Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at New York University in New York City, who was not involved in the report.
"This vaccine wears off, and if you don't get a booster you are putting babies at risk because the spread of pertussis is on the increase, with 17,000 cases reported in 2009," he said. Most infants that have not had their full vaccination series are under six months of age.
If you take care of an infant or have contact with an infant,
you have to get a booster, Siegel said. "That booster is best done
by getting Tdap, because you need a tetanus booster anyway, so Tdap
makes total sense," he said.
The CDC recommends that all adults 18-64 in contact with infants
or working in healthcare receive a Tdap within two years of their
last tetanus vaccination, and that other adults in the same age
range be offered the vaccine 10 years or more after their last
However, in the event of outbreaks or a jump in cases of
whooping cough in the community, these adults can be vaccinated
even when they got last tetanus shot less than 10 years ago, the
Tdap, which was first introduced in 2005, offers protection from
tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.
However, in 2008, only 5.9 percent of U.S. adults received the
Tdap vaccine, and 13, 278 cases of whooping cough were reported --
a figure that is likely an underestimate, according to the report
in the Oct. 15 issue of the CDC's
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The survey was limited in that vaccination data was
self-reported and possibly inaccurate; also, many respondents were
excluded because they were unsure whether they got a regular
tetanus shot or Tdap. This means that as many as 14.6 percent of
U.S. adults may actually have gotten the Tdap vaccine, the agency
reported, but they added that even that figure was
The Tdap is totally safe and everyone should be vaccinated,
Siegel said. But there may not be enough awareness of the need for
these boosters, and there is a lot of anti-vaccine propaganda out
there, he said. "We need a pro-vaccine campaign to combat the
anti-vaccine campaign," he concluded.
For more information on Tdap vaccine, visit the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
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