July 22, 2014 - 05:15
Health Department recommends vaccine
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Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is on the rise in some parts of the United States.

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is on the rise in some parts of the United States.  Although Tennessee has not seen unusually high reports of pertussis, officials with the Polk County Health Department encourage adolescents and adults who have not had one to take advantage of the tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (TDaP) vaccine to help protect themselves from the infection that causes a very contagious, prolonged cough.

“We think of this as a disease of infants, who are vaccinated starting at two months of age, because pertussis can be life-threatening to a baby,” said Eloise Waters, director of the Polk County Health Department.  “It’s important to know, however, pertussis immunity is not life-long, and without booster vaccinations, older children and adults can catch pertussis and spread it to others. For this reason, Tennessee requires pertussis vaccinations for children in daycare and school, including TDaP booster vaccine for all children going into the seventh grade.”

Pertussis starts with symptoms similar to a common cold, but coughing fits can worsen, making it difficult to breathe, eat or sleep. Antibiotic treatment can prevent the sick person from infecting others, but the cough can linger for up to three months, even after treatment. In some cases the coughing is so severe a person can crack a rib or develop pneumonia and require hospitalization.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a TDaP booster for every person age 11 years or older who has not yet had one. Vaccination is especially important for any person who cares for babies, particularly parents and grandparents, and for pregnant women because it can prevent someone from catching pertussis and passing it to a vulnerable newborn.

“Unlike some vaccines, the pertussis vaccines work well, but protection doesn’t last for many years,” Ms. Waters said.  “The good news is that the booster vaccine, TDaP, is widely available in clinics and pharmacies. We suggest talking to your family pharmacist or physician for recommendations about it. Our staff is also able to assist with information and immunizations. Those with questions are welcome to call us at 338-4533 or 496-3275.”

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