The Centers for Disease Control have seen a pretty significant jump in reported cases of pertussis–also known as “whooping cough” over the past two years.  Jumping by nearly 4,000 cases across the US since 2009, pertussis can be a deadly infection in babies less than 6 months of age.  Previous recommendations suggested that mothers be vaccinated immediately after birth to help protect babies from the bacteria that cause the condition, but now researchers feel that in order to properly protect babies, they should be receiving mom’s antibodies in utero.

There are still questions to be answered regarding the use of the vaccine before delivery–and the vaccines are currently still being given after delivery, so don’t be surprised if a nurse walks in with a dose for you before you leave the hospital.

One other important factor–those in close contact with your newborn should also be vaccinated to reduce the risk of bringing the bacteria home. Partners, children, grandparents and even child care workers should be vaccinated to help swaddle newborns in protection until their own immune systems can develop antibodies–which usually don’t develop properly until about the first 12 months.  Babies will get a pertussis vaccine in their first set of shots at 2 months of age, along with a couple of boosters before their first year of life.

Pertussis vaccine causes a nearly uncontrollable cough in children and infants–as they inhale during coughing spells, a signature “whooping” sound is heard. Pertussis can make it nearly impossible for children to catch their breath.

In California alone last year there were 10,000 reported cases of whooping cough and 10 infant deaths as a result of the disease.  Data showed that only 6% of adults caring for children with the condition were properly vaccinated.  In order to properly prevent this devastating illness, adults must recognize the risk and get vaccinated–just having good intentions won’t keep your baby healthy…which reminds me…next week, we will take a look at what screenings, test and preventative measures pregnant women can expect as they near delivery…since we are on the topic.