All U.S. Adults Should Get Whooping Cough Shot: Panel

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 22 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. health experts recommended Wednesday that all adults get vaccinated against whooping cough, an infectious bacterial disease that triggers uncontrollable coughing and is especially dangerous to infants.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to expand the vaccination recommendation to include all adults, including those aged 65 and older. Specifically, the panel recommended that adults aged 19 and older who have not been vaccinated should do so.

Children have been vaccinated against whooping cough since the middle of the last century.

Last September, the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics issued revised recommendations for the so-called Tdap vaccine, which protects against whooping cough (pertussis) in older children and adults. The vaccine also protects against diphtheria and tetanus. All three illnesses are caused by bacteria, and are potentially deadly diseases.

The latest recommendation takes the September guidelines a step further.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at New York University in New York City, said he agrees with the new recommendation.

"The original shot only lasts 10 years," he said. In addition, there's a growing pertussis outbreak in the United States, he noted.

"Adults are often carriers or spreaders with low-grade or full-blown infections, which can be passed on to infants," Siegel said. "The pertussis vaccine can be given as part of the Tdap series every 10 years."

In 2010, more than 21,000 people in the United States got whooping cough, the highest number since 2005 and one of the highest numbers in more than 50 years, federal health officials said.

A whooping cough outbreak in 2010 in California sickened more than 9,100 people and killed 10 infants. That rate of illness was the highest recorded in the state since 1947, according to the CDC.

Whooping cough -- which gets its name from the "whooping" sound children make when they cough -- is easily transmitted and causes severe, uncontrollable coughing. It mainly affects older children and adults, but can be a particularly serious threat to infants who are too young to be immunized. Although children aged 2 months and older receive a similar vaccine known as DTaP, which protects against the same three diseases, pertussis is often transmitted by older, unvaccinated family members, friends and relatives.

According to the CDC, whooping cough is most dangerous for babies -- more than half of infants younger than 1 year old who get the disease have to be hospitalized. About one in five infants develops pneumonia, and in rare cases (one in 100) the disease can be deadly, especially in infants.

"Changes in recommendations for pertussis vaccination have come about as a consequence of the re-emergence of whooping cough," Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told HealthDay. "Vaccination is critical in the pediatric age group because of the higher rate of lung damages, morbidity and mortality of this preventable disease."

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SOURCES: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Marc Siegel, M.D., associate professor, medicine, New York University, New York City; Len Horovitz, M.D., pulmonary specialist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City