Rising Whooping Cough Cases Spotlights Need for Boosters and Vaccinations

Health experts call for vaccinations as cases rise globally.

April 24, 2024

According to NBC News, a significant increase in whooping cough cases has been observed in Europe, Asia, and parts of the United States, prompting health experts to recommend vaccinations. The United Kingdom and Europe have seen the largest surge in cases since 2012, and more than 15,000 cases were reported in China alone in January, a dramatic increase from the previous year. In the U.S., outbreaks have been noted in New York City and smaller clusters in California and Hawaii.

Whooping cough, caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, spreads through respiratory droplets. While vaccination has helped control the disease in the U.S., breakthrough cases still occur, especially in vaccinated individuals who may experience milder symptoms. According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spokesperson Jasmine Reed, the number of cases in the U.S. remains lower than pre-pandemic averages, but local outbreaks are expected annually.

Newborns are particularly vulnerable to severe complications from whooping cough, such as pneumonia, which can be fatal. The CDC recorded 307 deaths from the illness between 2000 and 2017, with most victims being infants less than two months old. Dr. Thomas Murray from Yale School of Medicine emphasized the importance of preventing sick individuals from coming into contact with newborns and highlighted the necessity of monitoring for symptoms such as fever or breathing difficulties in babies.

The CDC recommends starting the DTaP vaccine series at two months of age for infants, with further doses continuing into early childhood. For adults and older children, the Tdap booster is advised to maintain immunity. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also recommends that pregnant women receive a Tdap booster during the third trimester to protect newborns from pertussis. Although the bacterium Bordetella pertussis mutates slowly, concern is growing that these changes could potentially impact vaccine effectiveness. Nevertheless, health experts affirm that the current vaccines remain the best defense against the disease.

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