Adults urged to get whooping cough vaccine to prevent spread of disease to newborns
Georgetown, S.C. — Felicia and Daryl Dube of Lancaster, S.C. know first-hand the horrors of pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, because they lost their newborn baby to the disease.
Now they are spreading the word that all adults who have not had a booster shot for whooping cough need to have one, especially if they come in contact with newborns.
In January of 2010, the Dubes took their baby, Carter, who was seven weeks old, to a doctor for what they thought might be the flu.
He had a low-grade fever and was fussy, but didn’t have a cough, Felicia Dube said.
“Carter was perfectly happy and healthy just the day before,” she said.
Their pediatrician was concerned with his respiratory rate, so he sent them to an area children’s hospital for more tests.
Baby Carter’s condition continued to deteriorate until he required a respirator. He passed away nine days later when he stopped breathing.
“That is the most helpless feeling in the world, standing by and watching as we hoped and prayed that he got better,” Felicia Dube said. “He fought hard, but it was time to let go.”
She said Carter had not been taken out of the house since his birth, so it was most likely someone who came into the house who passed on the disease.
Infants are particularly vulnerable to pertussis because they don't begin receiving their own vaccinations until they are 2 months old and may not be protected until they have received at least three doses of an infant DTaP vaccine, which is why adults should be vaccinated to help protect themselves and to help stop the spread of the disease to infants.
Felicia Dube and her cousin, Rebecca Rowell, have 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 whooping cough and the importance of adult vaccination.
Rowell was one of several family members who never had the chance to meet little Carter in person.
“I kept up with Felicia and saw photos of Carter on Facebook when he was first born,” Rowell said.
“I was excited to see him in a few weeks, but before I knew it he was in the hospital, hooked up to machines. I want to prevent other families from going through what we went through.”
Dr. Siobhan Dolan, medical advisor for the March of Dimes, said the vaccine, called DTaP for children under age 7 and TDaP for adults, is plentiful and easy to administer.
According to WebMD.com, DTaP is a vaccine that helps children younger than age 7 develop immunity to three deadly diseases caused by bacteria — diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough (pertussis). TDaP is a booster immunization given at age 11 and above that offers continued protection from those diseases for adolescents and adults.
Diphtheria is a respiratory disease that can cause breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure and death. It is highly contagious and is spread by coughing and sneezing.
Tetanus, or lockjaw, is caused by a bacterium often found in soil. Once it enters the body it releases a toxin that attacks the nervous system, causing muscle spasms and death if left untreated.
Whooping cough, also highly contagious, causes coughing spasms so severe that in infants it makes it difficult to eat, drink, or even breathe.
It can lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and death.
Dolan urges adults who have not had the booster shot, which has been available since 2006, to get one immediately, especially if they will be in contact with a newborn.
“Most people can get them through their family doctor,” Dolan said.
“If you are going to be exposed to a newborn, you certainly should get it — caregivers, babysitters, family members, and health providers especially.”
Pertussis has reached outbreak proportions in South Carolina in the past year, with more than 214 reported cases — up 77 percent from 2010, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
According to the CDC, America is experiencing one of the largest outbreaks of reported cases in 50 years.
The Sounds of Pertussis® Campaign has a new Facebook application — the Breathing Room.
The Breathing Room is intended to help parents track which members of their child’s circle of care have been vaccinated against pertussis.
Once family and friends in their Facebook network confirm their vaccination through the application, their Facebook profile picture is populated in to the parent’s virtual baby nursery.
The goal is for adult caregivers to commit to being vaccinated and build their own Breathing Rooms to help stop the spread of the disease to the infants in their lives.
Visit SoundsOfPertussis.com to learn more about pertussis and the Sounds of Pertussis Campaign, and visit SoundsOfPertussis.com/BreathingRoom to start building your Breathing Room.
By Clayton Stairs
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