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Questions and Answers

Español: Brotes - Preguntas y respuestas

Questions and Answers

Q: How common is pertussis?

A: Even with the success of pertussis (whooping cough) vaccines, the disease is still common in the United States. Many cases are not diagnosed and so are not reported. In recent years between 10,000 and 40,000 cases are reported each year. Institutional outbreaks of whooping cough, such as those in a daycare center or school, are common, taking place each year in many states.

Q: Why is there more pertussis in some years than others?

A: Reported cases of pertussis vary from year to year and tend to peak every 3 to 5 years. Our last peak year nationally was in 2012, when 48,277 cases of pertussis were reported to CDC. Before the 2012 peak, the United States also had a peak year in 2010, when more than 27,000 cases were reported. This pattern is not completely understood, but that’s why it’s important that everyone is up to date with their recommended pertussis vaccines. If it weren’t for vaccines, we’d see many more cases of pertussis.

Q: What should I do if I live in an outbreak area?

A: You can make sure you and your loved ones are up to date with recommended pertussis vaccines. There are two types of pertussis vaccines — DTaP for babies and children and Tdap for preteens, teens, and adults. Getting vaccinated with Tdap during every pregnancy is especially important for women. Also, caregivers of babies should keep them away from anyone with cough or cold symptoms.

Vaccination recommendations:

  • For Babies and Children: In the United States, the recommended pertussis vaccine for children is called DTaP. This is a safe and effective combination vaccine that protects children against three diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. For maximum protection against pertussis, children need five DTaP shots. The first three shots are given at 2, 4, and 6 months old. The fourth shot is given to children who are 15 through 18 months old, and a fifth shot is given when a child enters school, at 4 through 6 years old. If a 7 through 10 year old is not up-to-date with DTaP vaccines, a dose of Tdap should be given before the 11- to 12-year-old check up.
  • For Preteens and Teens: Vaccine protection for pertussis, tetanus, and diphtheria can decrease with time. Preteens should get a booster vaccine, called Tdap, at 11 or 12 years old. Teens and young adults who didn't get a booster of Tdap as a preteen should get one dose during their next visit to see their healthcare professional.
  • For Pregnant Women: Expectant mothers should get one dose of Tdap during each pregnancy, preferably at 27 through 36 weeks. By getting Tdap during pregnancy, maternal pertussis antibodies are passed to the newborn, providing protection against pertussis in early life, before the baby starts getting DTaP vaccines at 2 months old. Tdap will also protect the mother, making her less likely to spread pertussis to her baby.
  • For Adults: Adults 19 years or older who didn't get Tdap as a preteen or teen should get a single dose of Tdap. Adults get Tdap in place of one of their regular tetanus boosters — the Td shot that is recommended for adults every 10 years. However, the dose of Tdap can be given no matter when the last Td shot was received. It's a good idea for adults to talk to a healthcare professional about what's best for their specific situation.

Q: Should I delay travel to an area that is having a pertussis outbreak?

A: No, but those traveling to an area with a pertussis outbreak should make sure they are up to date on their pertussis vaccines. People who are not vaccinated or who are under-vaccinated, including babies too young to be vaccinated, are putting themselves at risk for catching pertussis.

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