King County infant dies of pertussis | Health

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King County infant dies of pertussis
King County infant dies of pertussis

A newborn baby in King County died last week from pertussis, the infection commonly known as whooping cough.

King County Public Health reports the infant died on Dec. 13, though further details have not been released to protect the family’s privacy. This is the first person in King County to die from pertussis in 2012. To date, there have been 752 reported cases of the infection since Jan. 1.

The health department is urging residents, especially pregnant mothers, to get the pertussis vaccine. For healthy adults, the infection most typically results in cold- or flu-like symptoms without serious side effects. But for infants, pertussis can be fatal.  

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that pregnant women get the Tdap vaccine between their 27th and 36th weeks to protect their babies. The vaccine provides a temporary immunity for infants until they are old enough to be vaccinated themselves, typically at 2 months of age. Still, only 5 percent of pregnant women in the country get the vaccine.

“We believe in taking all steps possible to prevent even a rare death,” says Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, Chief of Communicable Disease for Seattle and King County Public Health.

In addition, the health department recommends all family members who have contact with infants make sure they are up-to-date with their pertussis vaccine. Dr. Duchin says anyone with cold or cough symptoms should stay away from babies because even people with mild symptoms can spread pertussis, influenza, and other infections.

“You don’t know [if you have pertussis,]” Dr. Duchin says. “A little sniffle can cause a deadly illness for the baby.”

The CDC recommends the Tdap vaccine for all adults and teens 11 years of age and older. Children under 11 years should be up-to-date with their childhood pertussis vaccinations.

Dr. Duchin says the recent resurgence of pertussis in the United States could have been caused by a change in the vaccine in the late 1990’s. The newer version does not immunize patients for as long as the previous version.

The Pertussis vaccine is available through many health care providers and pharmacies and is covered by most insurance plans. Those who are uninsured or cannot afford to pay for the vaccine can get low-cost booster shots for adults at some QFC pharmacies. Vaccines are offered at low cost for children under 19 through health care providers participating in the state's Childhood Vaccine Program.

For more information on health insurance or help finding a healthcare provider, call the King County Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588.

“This is a preventable disease,” says Dr. Duchin. “No infant should develop pertussis.”