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Give Whooping Cough a Whoopin'

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Friday, 19 May 2017 11:12 AM Current | Bio | Archive

The whooping crane is an endangered species - about 400 of these noisy, 5-foot-tall birds are left in North America. If only whooping cough (that's pertussis) - a virulent, life-threatening infection - could be wiped out instead!

In the 1970s, there were only a couple of thousand reported cases annually in the U.S.; but in 2014, the number hit over 32,000.

The reason this disease wasn't eradicated when it was endangered, as smallpox was, may be because of the evolution of the bacteria to avoid the shot's targeted cause, the unfortunate resistance among some parents to having children inoculated or the possibility that the immunization loses effectiveness over time.

Whatever the reason, it's imperative that kids be protected as much as possible from the infection. Globally, it kills an estimated 195,000 children a year, many under the age of 1.

Fortunately, there are vaccines: The childhood vaccine (for kids 6 months of age and older) is called DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis); the pertussis booster vaccine for adults is called Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), and should be received every 10 years.

But there's a potentially big gap in protection for newborns, who cannot get inoculated for six months.

And there's a solution: According to a new study published in Pediatrics, a child's risk of whooping cough is slashed by 91.4 percent during the first two months of life if the mother-to-be gets a Tdap booster while pregnant.

So if you're pregnant, talk to your doctor about getting a booster shot. Everyone will breathe easier.

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