As the Immunization Program coordinator at San Juan Basin Health Department, I am daily made aware of the ongoing outbreak of pertussis - more commonly known as whooping cough - which is one of the most common vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States.
It's important to remember both children and adults can get pertussis. The disease is spread by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria. Many infants who get pertussis are infected by older siblings or parents who might not even know they have the disease.
Preventing pertussis in the U.S. is recommended by vaccinating children at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. Then a fourth dose is given between 15 and 18 months, and a fifth dose is given between ages 4 and 6 (often given prior to entering kindergarten). If your child is nearing 15 months of age or 4 years of age and has not had the appropriate booster dose of DtaP, do not wait. The protection from DtaP vaccine diminishes over time, and with an overall efficacy of approximately 80 percent, even fully vaccinated children can get this disease.
Also, adolescents ages 11 to 12 now are required by school entry requirements to have the adolescent version of the vaccine, TdaP; so if you have a preteenager who has not yet received the TdaP shot, again, do not wait.
As a community, we each can do our part in preventing the spread of this potentially deadly disease. Remember the old saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Words were never more appropriate than these during this present outbreak.
Melinda Malone, San Juan Basin Health Department, Durango