Friday, October 01, 2010

Whooping cough outbreak reminds us about importance of getting vaccinated, keeping up with boosters

In California this year, an outbreak of pertussis — also known as whooping cough — has led to the deaths of nine infants. More than 4,000 cases have been reported so far. Officials say it’s the worst outbreak in the state in 55 years.

The disease is characterized by coughing spells that end with a ‘whooping’ sound when someone who is sick breathes in. It’s easily spread, can be very serious and sounds like this.

The good news is that whooping cough is preventable. A simple vaccine — called DTap for children and Tdap for adults — can prevent it, and it’s the best defense. In fact, you can get protected against pertussis when getting your next tetanus and diphtheria booster shot. The Tdap vaccine will protect you from all three diseases. Consult your health care provider to learn what’s best for you.

And remember, even though you may have received your childhood vaccination against whooping cough, it doesn’t mean you are off the hook. Protection can fade over time, so check out the immunization schedule for children, teens and adults and make sure you and loved ones are safe. Booster shots are especially important for parents and caregivers, as they can unknowingly spread the infection to infants and children.

In addition to getting the vaccine, there are other steps to help protect yourself from whooping cough: wash your hands with soap and water — or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if hand-washing is not possible — and cover your nose and mouth when sneezing. These are tips that we should all practice daily to not only help prevent the spread of whooping cough, but to stay safe from other illnesses as well.

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