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Officials urge residents to vaccinate against whooping cough

As Michigan continues to see new pertussis cases this year, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is reminding residents during National Immunization Awareness Month of the importance of being up to date on all vaccinations including pertussis, also known as whooping cough. Through the end of July, Michigan has seen 546 cases, about 45 percent more than in the same period of 2013. Several other states, including Ohio, California, and Florida, are reporting similar increases.
“Children are routinely recommended to receive a series of pertussis vaccine doses in infancy and early childhood,” said Dr. Matthew Davis, chief medical executive of MDCH. “Adolescents and adults should receive a booster dose of the vaccine. In addition, pregnant women should get a booster in the third trimester of each pregnancy to help protect newborns, who are most vulnerable to the illness in the first few months of life.”
Pertussis is a respiratory infection caused by a bacterium that results in a prolonged illness. Severe coughing episodes are often accompanied by vomiting and difficulty breathing.  In some cases, a characteristic “whooping” noise is heard as the afflicted person tries to catch their breath. Once extremely common, vaccines developed in the US starting in the mid-1940s and helped drive down the occurrence of pertussis. But in recent decades, pertussis has been making a comeback.
“Part of the challenge,” Davis explained, “is that immunity to pertussis wears off, so getting a booster vaccine dose later in life can help extend the protection. Our primary focus is on preventing the disease in babies; they have smaller airways and less developed respiratory systems, which puts them at higher risk for severe cases as well as hospitalization and death from pertussis.”
Babies get a first dose of the vaccine at two months of age, but they are not optimally protected until completing the series of several more doses over the next year and half. MDCH strongly recommends that adults or adolescents who will be around infants receive the recommended pertussis booster vaccine dose, and that all residents receive their vaccines on time.
If you are uncertain about whether you or your children have had all recommended vaccines and doses, speak with your doctor or contact your local health department. For more information about pertussis, or any recommended or required vaccine, visit www.michigan.gov/immunize.

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