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HLM News Service—It’s back-to-school time, and with it comes updating outgrown clothes with new ones. As many Ava moms think about where to find the best deals, health officials say your family may also need to update their shots against whooping cough before that first bell rings.
Across the United States, health officials are troubled by an increase in cases of whooping cough. Whooping cough’s technical name is pertussis. It is a contagious disease that can be prevented with a shot or vaccination. California declared pertussis an epidemic in July, and according to state health officials, all regions across Missouri have reported outbreaks of the illness. In the past month, there have been 82 cases of pertussis. That is as many cases as Missouri typically has for an entire year.
“There are very few counties in our state that haven’t been affected by pertussis outbreaks. One of new recommendations this year for school entry is that we are requiring all 8th grade children have a TDap vaccine booster (for pertussis),” explains Public Health Consultant Nurse Susan Kneeskern, RN with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS).
Pertussis can seem to be a mild cold with a cough. But, if the cough is left untreated, it can change into a loud whooping sound, hence the nickname whooping cough. However, you may not hear any whooping sound with older children and adults. For babies younger than six months, you may not hear a whoop, but the baby may seem drowsy. The baby may also take long pauses between breaths. In many cases, there isn’t a fever to tell you something is wrong.
While many Ava moms may think that pertussis is a childhood disease, adults are not immune. Pertussis can strike at any age. This is why health officials are asking parents to review their children’s shot records, as well as their own. “Most all adults should get one TDap booster because pertussis is so prevalent. In the smallest children who haven’t been immunized for pertussis, in most all instances, it’s the adult caregiver that has given [the disease],” says Kneeskern.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that only 2 percent of American adults have gotten their Tdap shot. That leaves 10,221 adults in Douglas County at risk. According to the national project KIDS COUNT, the rates for 13-17 year olds are better but can improve. It’s estimated that 306 Douglas County teens still lag behind on their shots.
The problem, says Kneeskern, is that many shots have a shelf-life of protection. If shots aren’t updated, people are at risk. “Before we even know we’re sick, we share it with others. We can’t make those decisions about who we’re going to share it with,” Kneeskern points out. “By protecting ourselves, we protect everyone.”
To keep yourself and your family healthy, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and Health Literacy Missouri recommend:
• Get your shot. A teen and adult pertussis shot was first licensed in 2005. This means that older children and adults who originally received a pertussis shot as children have less immunity today.
• Adults who work with children need a shot. People who work in healthcare settings and pregnant women do, too.
• Have an infant at home? Everyone in the house needs updated shots.
• If you think your child or someone in your family has pertussis, see your doctor.
Not sure what shots your family needs? The DHHS web site links to a free Immunization Scheduler. Enter in your child’s birth date and find out which shots your child needs. Shots may be free for some Missouri families.
To see if your child qualifies for the state’s Vaccines for Children (VCF) program, visit dhss.mo.gov/Immunizations/ or call 1-800-219-3224.