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Whooping Cough Not a One-Shot Deal: June 3, 2014

When it comes to arming your loved ones against whooping cough, it is not a one-shot deal.

“In the past few years, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control have recommended getting another booster for pertussis at 11 years of age,” says Lee Memorial Health System pediatrician Dr. Anthony Pietroniro.

So in addition to just tetanus and diphtheria, kids get another dose of the pertussis vaccine to prevent whooping cough. Experts say it’s needed as the number of cases continues to rise.

“Immunization is two-fold. One, it’s to protect the people who are most vulnerable, which is why we start that series at two months of age,” says Dr. Pietroniro. “And what we try to do is create a cocoon of people who are immunized until that newborn has had a chance to receive the vaccine series.”

Infants face the most danger from whooping cough - it can lead to hospitalization even death. Teens and adults are likely to have milder symptoms, like a prolonged cough. They usually get it when their immunity has faded between shots or by skipping the vaccine altogether.

“I would say probably every year there’s usually one or two cases of whooping cough, or pertussis, that come to our practice,” says Dr. Pietroniro.

A recent one involved a child who was nearing the booster stage.

“I believe at the second visit with a complaint that the cough was no better and had been going on for weeks, it was decided to do a nasal swab to test them for pertussis,” says Dr. Pietroniro. “And it did come back positive.”

Spread by respiratory droplets the sickness is most contagious during the first few weeks, coughing can last for months and for the very young, a case of whooping cough can be life-changing.