Pertussis in Infants

Babies are at increased risk for pertussis

Pertussis (also called whooping cough) is highly contagious and is potentially fatal, especially for any baby younger than 12 months of age. In fact, up to 20 infants in this country continue to die from whooping cough every year — most of these are 0-2 months of age — too young to get vaccinated against pertussis.

Even when you get your baby vaccinated, he or she may not be fully protected until they have received at least 3 doses of the infant pertussis vaccine. During this time, infants are most vulnerable to pertussis.

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We left the hospital with empty arms.”

Pertussis outbreaks: A growing trend

If you thought pertussis was behind us, think again. Since the early 80s, the overall trend of reported pertussis cases has been on the rise. In recent years, between 10,000 and 40,000 cases have been reported annually in the US, however, these numbers represent only a small fraction of infections which actually happen. Some of the more alarming statistics include:

The number of annually reported cases of pertussis in the US hasn’t been below 10,000 since 2003.

In 2010, there were more than 27,550 reported cases of pertussis in the US.

In 2012, there were more than 48,000 reported cases.

Reported Cases of Pertussis

Image: Average annual reported cases of pertussis in the US. graph Image: Average annual reported cases of pertussis in the US. graph

Based on pertussis reporting data from 2009-2012.

Follow the full infant DTaP immunization schedule

Prevention is the best defense

One of the best ways to help protect babies against pertussis is to get them the full series of DTaP vaccine. Children should receive 4 doses of the DTaP vaccine at 2, 4, and 6 months, and a fifth dose between 15-18 months, with a booster dose at 4-6 years.

Image: During the 2010 California Pertussis outbreak, 53% of the 1215 affected children between 6 months and 18 years, with available vaccination history, had missed 1 or more recommended doses of vaccine.