Whooping Cough (Pertussis) On the Rise: Learn How to Help Protect Your Entire Family
By Dr. Arthur Kornhaber, National Sounds of Pertussis® Grandparent Expert
Whether you are a first-time grandparent, great-grandparent or someone who’s been there before, it is important to know and understand one of the most significant roles you play is that of Family Guardian. It is in that role that you can take action right now to help keep your family happy, healthy and safe. After all, it’s your responsibility as a grandparent to carry on the legacy of your family, which means prioritizing their health and happiness.
America is experiencing one of the largest outbreaks of reported pertussis cases in approximately 50 years, and you can play a vital role in helping protect yourself and helping stop the spread of this disease to your grandchildren.1 The first step you need to take as grandparents is to learn more about the issue and educate your family, friends and colleagues.
That’s why I joined the Sounds of Pertussis® Campaign, a national education campaign from March of Dimes and Sanofi Pasteur to help raise awareness about the potential dangers of pertussis and the importance of adult tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccination. As the Campaign’s Grandparent Expert, I helped develop Grandparents’ Corner, which you can visit at SoundsOfPertussis.com/GrandparentsCorner, for you to learn more about your important role and the many things you can do to help keep your entire family – especially your new grandbaby – protected against pertussis (also known as whooping cough).
Pertussis is a highly contagious and often serious disease, especially in young children and infants.2,3 Even though pertussis is vaccine-preventable,there were more than 41,000 reported cases and 18 deaths in 2012, with more than 83 percent of deaths occurring in infants younger than 12 months of age.4,5
Infants are particularly vulnerable to pertussis because they don’t begin receiving their own vaccinations until they are two months old and may not be protected until they have received at least three doses of an infant DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis) vaccine.6,7 The best way to help prevent pertussis is timely vaccination with the recommended pertussis vaccines.8 Since immunity from early childhood pertussis vaccinations wanes after about five to 10 years, adults who were immunized as children may no longer be protected, leaving them susceptible to the disease which they can then transmit to others, including their children and grandchildren.9Sadly, researchers found that when it could be determined how an infant caught pertussis, family members – including grandparents – were responsible for spreading the disease to the baby in up to 80 percent of cases.10 This is where you come in. As a grandparent, you can help protect your family, and especially your new grandbabies, by making sure your entire family is educated about the potential risk of pertussis, and by making sure everyone in contact with the baby is up-to-date on their pertussis vaccinations.
For more helpful information on pertussis and prevention, you can visit SoundsOfPertussis.com and SoundsOfPertussis.com/GrandparentsCorner. On the site, you can find helpful resources, including:
Grandparents’ Guide to Pertussis: A resource guide designed specifically with grandparents in mind, with information about why your new grandbaby may be more at risk for pertussis, and how to help protect yourself and your family.The Role of Family Guardian: Frequently asked questions about the transition from “parent” to “grandparent” and the role you can play in your grandbaby’s healthcare.New Grandchild Birth Announcement: Mailer to announce the new addition to your family and encourage family and friends to make sure they are up-to-date on their adult Tdap vaccination before meeting your grandchildren.
Cherry, JD. Perspective: Epidemic pertussis in 2012 — the resurgence of a vaccine-preventable disease. N Engl J Med. 2012; 367:785-787 August 30, 2012. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1209051. Accessed August 8, 2013. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Disease Information: Pertussis: Causes & Transmission. https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/causes-transmission.html. Accessed August 8, 2013.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Disease Information: Pertussis: Complications. https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/complications.html. Accessed August 8, 2013. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Pertussis: Outbreaks. https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/outbreaks/trends.html. Accessed August 8, 2013.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2012 Provisional Pertussis Surveillance Report. https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/downloads/Provisional-Pertussis-Surveillance-Report.pdf. Accessed April 1, 2013.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Pertussis: Outbreaks. https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/outbreaks/trends.html. Accessed August 8, 2013.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Immunization Schedules. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/easy-to-read/index.html. Accessed August 8, 2013.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Disease Information: Pertussis: Signs & Symptoms. https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/signs-symptoms.html. Accessed August 8, 2013.Kretsinger K, Broder KR, Cortese MM et al. Preventing tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis among adults: use of tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and recommendation of ACIP, supported by the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC), for use of Tdap among health-care personnel. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2006; 55(RR-17):1-37.Bisgard KM, Pascual FB, Ehresmann KR et al. Infant pertussis: who was the source? Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2004;23(11):985-9.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Disease Information: Pertussis: Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/prevention.html. Accessed August 8, 2013.
About the author
Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.