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DHHS Reports North Carolina’s First Infant Death from Whooping Cough

Pertussis Vaccinations Urged for Caregivers of Young Children

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
Immediate Release - August 20, 2012
Contact: Julie Henry or Chrissy Pearson , 919-855-4840

Raleigh — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today reported the first infant death attributable to pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough. The child, who was only two months old, was from Forsyth County.

Whooping cough continues to spread throughout the state and country, and state health officials strongly urge parents to take these immediate steps to protect their children and other loved ones:

  • Make sure your child is current on his or her vaccinations. The DTaP vaccination series is recommended for children starting at 2 months of age, and continuing at 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months and 4-6 years of age.
  • Insist that the adults in your children’s lives are vaccinated also. Whooping cough spreads easily from person to person, and young babies especially are not fully protected until they receive the full series of shots.
  • Ask about your children’s caregivers. Babysitters, child care providers, family members, etc. who come in close contact with your children should be vaccinated.
  • Don’t forget booster shots. By age 11, children should receive the Tdap booster. It’s never too late for teenagers or adults to receive the booster if they haven’t already.

“Babies and young children are not fully immunized until they have finished a series of vaccinations, so their only protection against whooping cough is the people around them,” said State Health Director Dr. Laura Gerald. “Anyone who lives with or will be around a baby should be vaccinated.”

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services announced in March that the Tdap vaccine, which protects against pertussis, would be available at no-cost to anyone 7 years and older for a limited time. There may be an administration fee depending on your health care provider. The vaccine is still readily available through the N.C. Immunization Network, which includes private health care providers and local health departments.

Whooping cough is a highly contagious illness that is spread from person to person usually by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others. It can be serious at any age, but is life-threatening in newborns and infants who are too young to be fully vaccinated. Many infants who get whooping cough are infected by caregivers who might not even know they have the disease.

“State law requires pertussis vaccinations for pre-school and school-age children, but we know that immunity wanes over the years,” Dr. Gerald said. “A booster shot is a safe and effective way for adolescents and adults to protect themselves and those they love.”

The Tdap booster shot is recommended for any child 7–10 who did not complete the childhood DTaP vaccination series and anyone 11 and older who has not yet received a Tdap booster. Tdap is particularly recommended for:

  • women who are pregnant or may become pregnant;
  • all close contacts of infants under 12 months of age (parents, siblings, grandparents, household contacts, child care providers); and
  • anyone with a pre-existing, chronic respiratory disease. For more information on pertussis vaccine, visit http://www.immunize.nc.gov/family/vaccines/pertussis.htm

A public service announcement is available for use here: http://publichealth.nc.gov/docs/NCPH_Pertussis%20Vaccinations_30.mp3

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