The agency reports nearly 18,000 cases have been reported nationwide so far this year — more than twice the number reported in 2011. In April, the state of Washington even declared a pertussis epidemic.
Joshua Meyerson, medical director for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, said despite the proven effectiveness and availability of the pertussis vaccine, many people remain unvaccinated, which places them at extreme risk of contracting and spreading the highly contagious bacterial disease.
“The most important thing parents can do to protect their children from illnesses like pertussis is to get their infants vaccinated, and follow the schedule for booster doses as their babies grow,” Meyerson said.
Meyerson added that, although vaccination has substantially reduced the number of pertussis cases, the disease remains a threat.
“It can be a very serious illness,” he said. “It’s also important for family members of young babies to get a pertussis booster shot, so they’re protected from the illness and don’t pass it on to infants.”
The CDC reports that more than half of the infants who contract pertussis at less than one year of age require hospital care.
Meyerson said infants should receive four doses of pertussis vaccine by the time they reach 18 months of age, and recommended a routine booster dose before they begin kindergarten. He also warned that the protection offered by diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) boosters can fade over time, meaning pre-teens (starting routinely at age 11) should get a DTaP dose. Adults who did not receive a DTaP dose in their earlier years — particularly health care workers, or those who are around infants, including relatives and day care providers — should also obtain a booster dose as soon as possible.
For more information or to schedule an appointment for vaccinations, contact the Health Department of Northwest Michigan at (800) 432-4121.
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