Fewer Infants Hospitalized for Whooping Cough, Study Finds

News Picture: Fewer Infants Hospitalized for Whooping Cough, Study Finds

MONDAY, Oct. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Widespread vaccination of teens against whooping cough has resulted in fewer U.S. infants being hospitalized for the respiratory infection, also known as pertussis, according to a new study.

The researchers said their findings highlight the importance of raising vaccination rates among teens and adults to end the ongoing whooping cough epidemic among infants. Waning immunity and failure to vaccinate have been associated with the epidemic.

In 2006, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all teens be vaccinated against whooping cough. At that time, the researchers began examining hospitalization rates for infants with the infection. Using hospitalization data collected between 2000 and 2005, they also estimated what hospitalization rates for infants would have been if the teen whooping cough vaccination program had not been implemented.

"We know infants get pertussis from family members, including older siblings," study lead author Dr. Katherine Auger, a pediatrician in the division of hospital medicine at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, said in a medical center news release.

The new study, published Oct. 21 in the journal Pediatrics, revealed lower hospitalization rates than would have been expected for three of the four years reviewed after the teen vaccination recommendation was made. From 2008 to 2011, there were about 3.3 hospitalizations per 10,000 infants. If the teen vaccination recommendation had not been made, the researchers estimated there would have been 12 hospitalizations per 10,000 infants.

"While it is encouraging to find a modest reduction in infant hospitalizations after the vaccination of adolescents began, there were still more than 1,000 infants hospitalized for pertussis in 2011," Augur said. "Expecting parents should discuss with their doctors the need for vaccination of all caregivers before the birth of a baby."

In 2012, the CDC recommended that pregnant women also receive the whooping cough vaccine. The researchers said future research is needed to determine how this change will further affect whooping cough hospitalization rates among infants.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

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SOURCE: Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, news release, Oct. 21, 2013