By Meron Tesfai

What is Pertussis?

Pertussis, commonly called “Whooping Cough,” is an infection that causes violent coughing often followed by a high-pitched “whoop” sound. The germ can be easily spread, and it can be life threatening for babies. In a recent pertussis outbreak in Washington State, the disease occurred in babies nearly five times more frequently than among other age groups.

Who is at risk?

Even though whooping cough can be mild in adolescents and adults, it can be dangerous for babies under one-year-old. Babies do not receive their first dose of the pertussis vaccine until they are at least 2 months old and do not have full protection until their fourth dose at 15-18 months of age. So it is important to keep them safe by being up to date with YOUR vaccination until they can be protected through THEIR vaccination.

So what can you do to ensure your health and the health of your baby?

“Tdap” vaccine is recommended for anyone coming into close contact with a baby. Moms, dads, grandparents, brothers, sisters, babysitters, and anyone else who will be in direct contact with the baby. Protecting everyone around the baby is called “cocooning.” Pregnant women can receive Tdap during pregnancy – check with your doctor. This will protect you AND your baby will have added protection. If you don’t have a primary care doctor, call the Mayor’s Health Line at 617-534-5050.

Tdap stands for Tetanus Diphtheria and Pertussis vaccine. Check with your health care provider to see if you and your family are up-to-date with your pertussis vaccination. If you need the vaccine, plan to get it at least two weeks before you will be in contact with a young child. It takes that long for protection to develop after getting the shot.

For more information on pertussis, Tdap vaccines, and vaccine safety, please visit the CDC’s website on Pertussis and the Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies website on Immunization.  You can also get more information on the BPHC website here or call us at 617-534-5611.

Just remember… Grandma, Mommy, and me! Grandpa, daddy, and me!

Meron is a project manager in the Education & Outreach Office of BPHC’s Infectious Disease Bureau.

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