Protect Your Most Precious Gift from Pertussis this Season
But after the family get-togethers and merriment died down, I knew that something was not quite right with Carter. He had become abnormally fussy, and we thought it was just a cold. But when his fever spiked over 100 degrees, I took him to the pediatrician where his breathing rate prompted doctors to rush him to Levine's Children's Hospital. Over the course of a week, Carter went from being my healthy, happy infant to an incredibly sick baby fighting for his life. Consequently, my seven-week old son lost his life to a disease called pertussis. (Pictured above are Felicia Dube and Landon Carter)
At the time, my husband and I knew very little about pertussis, also called whooping cough, not to mention that a vaccination could have prevented the disease. I was perplexed – I had read all of the mommy books, my baby was born healthy and I followed my doctor's advice – but no one ever told me about the importance of the adult tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccination to help prevent the spread of this potentially fatal disease to infants.
So in honor of Carter, this holiday season I hope to give you the gift of knowledge. Before my daughter was born several years later, I made sure that I was informed. I learned that pertussis is a highly contagious and often serious disease.1,2 In adults, the milder form is often mistaken for the common cold or bronchitis and can be easily spread.1,2 However when spread, severe pertussis usually occurs in babies and young children, who are at higher risk for pertussis-related complications.2,3 Much to my dismay, researchers found that when it could be determined how an infant caught pertussis, family members were responsible for spreading the disease to the baby in up to 80 percent of cases.4 More specifically, parents were responsible up to 50 percent of the time.5
With your family gathering to celebrate the holidays together in the coming weeks, just as mine did, the risk for spreading pertussis to your infant or young child could be even higher. I urge parents to make sure that anyone who comes in contact with their baby this holiday season is up to date on their adult Tdap vaccination to help protect themselves and to help stop the spread of the disease to their babies.
I miss Carter every day, but I am committed to sharing his story so that other parents do not experience the same. That's why my family and I decided to work with Sounds of Pertussis™, a national education campaign from Sanofi Pasteur and the March of Dimes to help raise awareness about the potential dangers of pertussis and the importance of adult Tdap vaccination.
Be informed to protect your most precious gift this holiday season. Please visit SoundsOfPertussis.com to learn more about pertussis and the Sounds of Pertussis Campaign.
Editor's Note: Reported cases of pertussis in North Carolina have increased from 2013 to 2014 by about 19 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Notifiable Disease Report.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Disease Information: Pertussis: Causes & Transmission. http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/causes-transmission.html. Accessed May 9, 2014.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Disease Information: Pertussis: Complications. http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/complications.html. Accessed May 9, 2014.
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Disease Information: Pertussis: Signs & Symptoms. http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/signs-symptoms.html. Accessed May 9, 2014.
4. Bisgard KM, Pascual FB, Ehresmann KR et al. Infant pertussis: who was the source? Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2004;23(11):985-9. https://www.vaxserve.com/assets/pdf/library/infant_pertussis_source.pdf. Accessed May 9, 2014.
5. Wendelboe AM, Njamkempo E, Bourillon A et al. Transmission of Bordetella pertussis to young infants. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2007;26(4):293-9. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/555372. Accessed May 9, 2014.