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Questions & Answers

Español: Brotes - Preguntas y respuestas

Questions and Answers

Q: How common is whooping cough?

A: Even with the success of 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 whooping cough in some years than others?

A: Reported cases of whooping cough vary from year to year and tend to peak every 3-5 years. Our last peak year nationally, before the 2012 peak, was 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 get vaccinated. If it weren’t for vaccines, we’d see many more cases of whooping cough.

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 whooping cough vaccines. There are two types of whooping cough vaccines - DTaP for infants and children and Tdap for adolescents and adults. Getting vaccinated with Tdap is especially important for pregnant women. Also, if caring for an infant, keep him or her away from anyone with cough or cold symptoms.

Vaccination recommendations:

  • For Infants and Children: In the US, 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 of age. The fourth shot is given at 15 through 18 months of age, and a fifth shot is given when a child enters school, at 4 through 6 years of age. If a 7-10 year old is not up-to-date with DTaP vaccines, a dose of Tdap should be given before the 11-12 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 of age. Teens and young adults who didn't get a booster of Tdap as a preteen should get one dose when they visit their health care provider.
  • 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 transfer to the newborn, likely providing protection against pertussis in early life, before the baby starts getting DTaP vaccines. Tdap will also protect the mother at time of delivery, making her less likely to transmit pertussis to her infant. If not vaccinated during pregnancy or ever before, Tdap should be given immediately postpartum, before leaving the hospital or birthing center.
  • For Adults: Adults 19 years of age and older who didn't get Tdap as a preteen or teen should get one 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 health care provider about what's best for their specific situation.

Q: Should I delay travel to an area that is having a whooping cough outbreak

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

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