Protecting your family from whooping cough -

Protecting your family from whooping cough

Pertussis - also known as whooping cough - is on the rise across the country. It's a serious disease that can cause permanent disability or even death in infants. Here's a look at how you can protect your family.

Health departments are urging people to get vaccinated against whooping cough as the United States continues on track for the highest number of whooping cough cases in five decades.  

Babies are the most vulnerable to the bacteria illness, but experts warn it's their caregivers who may be putting them most at risk.  

At Norton Community Health Associates in Clarksville, Tenn.; Pediatrician Dr. Jill Howell-Berg diagnosed two cases in three weeks and is awaiting test confirmation on a third one.

"Several factors may be the cause of why we're seeing more cases" said Dr. Berg. "It's possible that we're just testing more babies, more kids for it. It's also possible the tests are better than they used to be."

But what she and Louisville Metro Health Department Director, Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt both point to as well is a waning of the vaccine effectiveness.

There's a push underway to get the booster shots. Babies get a series of five injections before entering school. A booster shot is required at sixth grade. Now, there's a push for adults to get booster shots as well.

This bacteria will kill an infant. 

"When an adult collapses out in public, it's their heart," said Dr. Nesbitt. "When a child collapses out in public, it's typically their breathing, and we know whooping cough or pertussis affects their respiratory system so it makes it very difficult for these children to breath."  

Dr. Berg will admit infants to the hospital for observation because the risk is so serious.

"Many of these children end up in respiratory distress intensive care units and some of them do recover, but any insult to the lungs of a small infant can be deadly," Dr. Nesbitt said.

Dr. Berg isn't just talking to parents about the vaccines their child is receiving: "We're suggesting that everyone that's a caregiver for an infant less than one year of age has a whooping cough booster shot -- moms, dads, and grandmas, everybody!" 

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