“Oh My God!
Your baby is so cute! Let me hold her!”
Does this sound familiar to you? While friends and relatives are visiting your new born baby and you, they usually come bearing gifts, joy, good wishes and… … … pertussis.
What you need to know about Pertussis
Known commonly as Whooping Cough or 100-days Cough, Pertussis is a very serious and highly contagious upper respiratory infection caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis. The diseases is marked by a severe hacking cough, followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like a “whoop“. People of all ages may get whooping cough. However, those younger than 1 years old are at risk of severe complications. Whooping cough usually starts with symptoms of common cold, mild cough, and fever. Consequently, after a week or two, symptoms may then worsen. This may cause difficulty of breathing and eating, vomiting, turning blue due to lack of oxygen, extreme fatigue, broken ribs. In addition, complications include severe pneumonia, seizures, malnutrition, bleeding, hernia, and even death.
Everything that’s old is new again
Thanks to anti-vaxxers and ignorant parents, pertussis is coming back to trend. Let’s give them a round of applause and standing ovations for bringing back a preventable disease, causing thousands of baby deaths. During the pre-vaccination era, recorded cases in the USA were never below 100.000 annually, with its peak at 265.000 cases in 1934. Ever since the introduction of Pertussis vaccine in 1940, gradual decrease was noted, reaching only 1.010 cases annually in 1976.
Long story short, in 2010 another epidemic was recorded, 27.550 cases were reported in 2010, doubling up to 48.277 in 2012. Similar rise in pertussis cases were reported in other parts of the world, including Japan, Taiwan, and Indonesia. 548 cases were recorded in Indonesia in 2002, increasing up to 4.350 in 2007.
Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that worldwide, there are around 16-million cases of whooping cough and about 195.000 deaths per year. Ninety percent (90%) of pertussis-associated deaths have been among babies less than 1-year old. In infants younger than 1 year of age who get pertussis, about half are hospitalized. Of those being hospitalized with pertussis, 1 in 4 get pneumonia. 1 or 2 in 100 will get convulsions. Two-thirds will have apnea (breathing difficulty to inability to breathe). 1 in 300 will have encephalopathy (disease of the brain). 1 or 2 in 100 will die.
The Sad Sad Truth
In the USA, generally speaking, low awareness of adults getting Tdap booster shots is a major cause of the outbreaks of pertussis. It has been estimated that only about 2 in 10 adults are up-to-date on their whooping cough booster vaccination.
Should we even start to talk about how many adults in Indonesia are getting booster shots for pertussis? There are unfortunately no statistics, but seriously, even I keep seeing parents carrying their baby while having a really bad flu. A lot of people don’t even seem to be aware of something called “cough ethics”.
Did you even get a full shot of five-doses of DTaP during childhood? And are your caregivers vaccinated?
Dear Adults, Especially Parents, Please Vaccinate!
Next time your relatives or friends come to visit your newborn baby and you, do not let them near your baby without being vaccinated. This seems to be a majorly neglected issue, especially here in Indonesia. Newborns generally have no immunity against Pertussis, and can only be vaccinated at the age of 2 months. This makes them vulnerable to be infected when adults are touching and kissing them. For the best protection, children should be given five-doses of DTaP vaccine. Best time for vaccinating is at age 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, between 15-18 months, and between 4-6 years.
Adults need to be given booster Pertussis vaccination, because the immunity usually wanes after 7-20 years. For this reason, preteens aged 11-12 should be given one dose of the Tdap vaccine. Furthermore, adults over 19 years old who did not get the vaccine during that age should be given one dose of the Tdap vaccine. Especially, women should be given the Tdap vaccine during every pregnancy, preferably at the third trimester. Yes, the Tdap Vaccine is safe and in fact recommended during pregnancy! This way, mothers build antibodies that are transferred to the newborn. This protects the newborn before the baby can get their first dose of DTaP at 2 months old. If not vaccinated during pregnancy, mothers should be vaccinated after delivery of the baby, before leaving the hospital.
In addition, all members of the family, including caregivers (baby sitters are popular nowadays here in Indonesia among urban mothers) should receive one-dose of Tdap at least 2-weeks before contact with the baby.
Recent Case: 55 Infants Died, Pertussis Outbreak in Papua
Whooping Cough have been known to be common in Papua New Guinea, with over 70.000 cases reported since 1980. January 2016, the most recent outbreak recorded resulted in the cremation of not less than 55 infants. Notably, this number is still increasing until today. In addition, the previous outbreak was noted in March 2011, with 205 cases of pertussis and a 3% death rate.
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Vaccines are the Safest Prevention Against Pertussis Infection in Adults, Children & Infants!
Be Wise, Immunize!
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- Pertussis or Whooping Cough Fact Sheet. New York State Department of Health, March, 2016. http://www.health.ny.gov/publications/2171/
- Salzberg S. Anti-Vaccine Movement Causes the Worst Whooping Cough Epidemic in 70 Years. Forbes, 2012.
- Datta S et al. Pertussis outbreak in Papua New Guinea: the challenges of response in a remote geo-topographical setting. Western Pacific Surveillance and Response Journal, 2012, 3(4):3–6. doi:10.5365/wpsar.2012.3.3.008
- Ant. Serangan Pertussis Buat 55 Balita Tewas Di Papua. Oke Zone News. January, 2016. http://news.okezone.com/read/2016/01/11/340/1285221/serangan-pertusis-buat-55-balita-tewas-di-papua