Alert: Get Immunized!
By Dianne Hart Pettis, MS,
The Truth Contributor
immunization status is important in the prevention of
disease throughout your life. Most people know they should
get yearly flu vaccines and Tetanus boosters every 10
years. Recently, however, the urgent recommendation to get
a Pertussis (whooping cough) is receiving a lot of
attention. There have been recent outbreaks of Pertussis
all over the country – the worst in 50 years. This year’s
cases are double the reported rate of last year.
This magnitude of
outbreaks is so alarming because it is such an easily
spread, contagious disease. The bacteria, called Bordetella
pertussis is found in the nose, mouth and throat. The
bacterium is easily spread to others by sneezing or
coughing. Though anyone can get whooping cough, it is most
dangerous to children under one year of age, premature
babies or children with lung disease.
The Pertussis vaccine
is given in combination with Diphtheria and Tetanus (DPT or
DTaP) in a series of five shots: at two, four, six and 15
months, and another between four to six years old.
A Tetanus and Diphtheria
(Td) booster shot is given around the age 11 or 12. After
that, it has been recommended that everyone have a Td
booster every 10 years, or after five years if you are
injured involving a rusty or dirty object because immunity
starts to decrease.
Now, because of the
increased cases of Pertussis, it is recommended that people
– especially pregnant women and those who work with young
children, get the booster shot containing the Pertussis
Pertussis cases have
been known to spike every three to five years, but recently
the cases in 13 to 14 year-olds have risen. It is
speculated that either the effectiveness of the vaccine they
received before they started school is lower, or that it is
just wearing off.
The symptoms of
Pertussis usually begin five to 10 days after a person has
been exposed to it, but can take as long as 21 days.
Cold-like symptoms begin first: a mild occasional cough,
low-grade fever, runny nose, and sneezing. The cough will
become severe over the next one to two weeks with coughing
spasms; rapid coughing with a characteristic and
The coughing attacks occur
mostly at night, and can be very exhausting. The attacks
will occur more frequently over the weeks, and then
gradually decrease. The coughing attacks can reoccur off and
on for several months.
As mentioned, young
children are affected most severely, and some have to be
hospitalized. Nine children have died this year so far. If
a child is having symptoms as described above, they should
be taken to their pediatrician for evaluation and treatment.
Take the child to the
emergency room if there is severe respiratory distress,
turning blue, or if they have a history of an underlying
lung disease. The illness is treated with antibiotics.
Household contacts and other close contacts with children or
adults who have Pertussis also need to be treated with
The main message is:
get immunized. If you recently had a Tetanus/Diphtheria
booster (Td), or even if it has not been 10 years since your
last booster, you can still get the booster containing the
Pertussis (DTaP). Protect yourself and others.
Contact Dianne Hart
Pettis, MS, FNP-BC at