U.S. cases of the bacterial infection pertussis, also known as whooping cough, are at the highest levels since the 1950s. And a recent study of a vaccine to prevent the infection suggests it is safe and supports the recommendation that those 65 and older get the vaccine to protect others — especially babies — from whooping cough.
The study of the vaccine, which is namedÂ tetanus-diptheria-acellular pertusis,Â or Tdap, was published online in Clinical Infectious Diseases. Tdap is a booster vaccine for tetanus-diptheria vaccine (Td). If it has been more than 10 years since a person last received their last Td vaccine it is recommended that they get the Tdap.
Risks of whooping cough
Whooping cough is a very contagious respiratory illness that puts infants at the greatest risk for severe complications, even death. Exposure to whooping cough puts half of infants younger than one year old in the hospital, according to the CDC. One to two in 100 infants who are hospitalized due to whooping cough die. Infants can’t be immunized to protect against the infection until they are two months old.
Safety of the Tdap for seniors
The study included 119,573 seniors who received the Tdap vaccine and an equal number who received a traditional Td vaccine. Risk for adverse effects following the vaccination was found to be similar in both groups — those given Tdap and those given the Td vaccine. The safety data was compiled by seven health maintenance organizations across the U.S.
Whooping cough outbreaks
The researchers behind the study are seeking to assure senior citizens about the safety of the Tdap vaccine. They believe a string of recent whooping cough outbreaks in Minnesota, Washington, Colorado and Wisconsin make it important that doctors administer the vaccines to senior citizens.
Symptoms and spread
Pertussis bacteria is found in saliva in the mouth and mucus in the nose. Children normally catch whooping cough when they breathe in tiny droplets released into the air by other people’s coughs and sneezes. It’s important to cover mouths and noses when sneezing and coughing.
SymptomsÂ of whooping cough start like those of a cold. There can be sneezing, runny nose and a slight fever. A cough may worsen at night. Whereas a cold comes and goes waning in strength as time passes, whooping cough gets stronger within two weeks. Coughing fits may go on and on. During coughing spells a person’s face may go red or the lips or skin may turn purple or blue.
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