Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, typically affects babies younger than 6 months who haven’t received or aren’t old enough to receive the vaccine. It can cause such uncontrollable fits of coughing that it can be deadly for babies, who may stop breathing, have seizures, develop pneumonia, or suffer brain damage.
Since 2012, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that pregnant women receive a vaccine called Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), to prevent their newborn from getting the bacterial infection.
While the preventative measure is working to lower the numbers of infant whooping cough cases, only about half of mothers-to-be are opting to receive the vaccine, according to a new study.
Researchers from the CDC analyzed data from 2011 to 2014, from six states, on babies younger than 2 months. The investigators found that Tdap vaccination in the third trimester of pregnancy prevented 78 percent of whooping cough cases.
Among babies who developed whooping cough despite their mothers’ vaccination, 90 percent had mild cases and did not require hospitalization.
"Women have such a great opportunity to help protect their babies before they enter the world by getting the Tdap vaccine while pregnant," said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
Babies cannot receive the vaccination before 2 months of age and infants younger than 1 year are at the highest risk for severe complications or death from whooping cough. Each year, five to 15 babies die from whooping cough in the United States. In most cases, these infants were too young to get their own shot, the CDC researchers said. So far this year, more than 11,000 cases have been reported.
Pertussis is highly contagious. The bacterium spreads from person to person through tiny drops of fluid from an infected person's nose or mouth. These may become airborne when the person sneezes, coughs, or laughs. Inhaling the drops or getting the drops on their hands and then touching their mouths or noses can then infect others.
"This study highlights how babies can benefit when their mothers get the vaccine, and reinforces CDC's recommendation for women to get Tdap vaccine in the third trimester of each pregnancy," Messonnier added in an agency news release.
Story sources: Marie McCullough, http://www.philly.com/philly/health/kids-families/study-whooping-cough-vaccination-during-pregnancy-protects-newborns-20170928.html