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Adults overdue for whooping cough vaccine

An IU Health White Memorial Hospital Release

— While most children have been vaccinated for pertussis, often called whooping cough, adults and teenagers may no longer be protected from the highly contagious disease.

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the effectiveness of the vaccine can fade over time. Even those who have received a vaccine within the last ten years may be susceptible to the disease because it is so highly contagious.

“If you haven’t had a Tdap vaccine or booster within the last ten years, you should see your doctor,” Dr. Alfie Diamond, IU Health Arnett Family Medicine physician in Monticello. “You are leaving yourself and your loved ones open to getting pertussis.”

Pertussis may seem like the common cold at first, with symptoms of runny nose, congestion or mild coughing. However, after one or two weeks, the coughing fits can become serious, leading to rapid, deep coughing until the lungs are empty. These fits can be so severe that some adults may suffer cracked ribs.

Infants may or may not experience coughing fits. Pertussis can cause apnea, or dangerous pauses in breathing, in this age group. More than half of babies who get pertussis are hospitalized and often get pneumonia. In extreme cases, pertussis can lead to death in infants.

Most infants get pertussis from adults around them who may or may not know they have the disease. The vaccine can prevent the spread of disease.

“If you are around babies, it is absolutely necessary to be vaccinated in order to protect them,” Dr. Diamond says. “Whether this is your own child, niece, nephew, grandchild or a child you babysit, you owe it to them to get vaccinated.”

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