Much recent news coverage has focused on viral outbreaks like Ebola and measles, while coverage of another outbreak has been somewhat muted. Since the 1980’s, there has been an increase in the number of reported pertussis (whooping cough) cases in the United States, culminating in more than 48,000 cases in 2012, the most since 1955.
While the reasons for this increase are varied, a new study done in Washington state shows pertussis immunity wanes within five years of receiving the Tdap vaccination, which protects against pertussis, tetanus and diphtheria.
“The take-home message is that the waning is there,” said Dr. Art Reingold with the University of California in an interview with National Public Radio. “You’re protected initially but it wanes over time.”
The majority of people receive their last pertussis vaccination when they are teens, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that a booster is needed every five to 10 years to uphold a high level of immunity.
In many cases, pertussis vaccination isn’t just to protect the person receiving the immunization but also those who can often not protect themselves, including the immunocompromised and very young children.
Early pertussis symptoms are cold-like with a mild cough but can develop into a serious cough that can continue for several weeks. It is always potentially serious for adults, but pertussis can also cause ‘apnea’ or a pause in the breathing pattern. This can be most dangerous for babies, and about half of infants under the age of one that contract the virus are hospitalized.
It is highly recommended that those who will be around young children receive a Tdap vaccination.
This is especially true if traveling to a region where pertussis is still at least somewhat active. World Health Organization reporting shows India, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea and Chile as some of the top nations for reported pertussis cases. It should be noted that these statistics only include confirmed cases and some nations (especially in Africa) did not report any statistical information.
The CDC and other organizations point to vaccination as the best tool available for fighting pertussis outbreaks, and adult boosters are recommended especially if traveling to an area where pertussis may be present.
A Tdap vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your family from this potentially dangerous disease. Contact a Passport Health travel specialist to arrange your vaccination before going on your next trip.
For more information on pertussis, see the CDC’s pertussis portal.
For more information on the Tdap vaccination, see Passport Health’s Tdap portal.
To schedule a Tdap or other immunization at a Passport Health travel clinic, call 1-888-499-PASS (7277).