Published On: Sat, Sep 28th, 2013

Transylvania County infant dies from whooping cough, first infant death from pertussis in North Carolina

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is reporting the first infant death in 2013 attributable to pertussis in a three week old from Transylvania County, according to a health department release Friday.



Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is caused by the bacterium, Bordetella pertussis. The disease is spread through direct contact with respiratory discharges via the airborne route.

“Infants cannot begin vaccination against whooping cough until they are 2 months old and even young children are not fully protected until they have finished a series of vaccinations,” said Dr. Robin Cummings, Acting State Health Director and DHHS Deputy Secretary for Health Services. “That is why it is so important that anyone who lives with or will be around a baby be vaccinated to prevent transmitting the disease.”

DTaP is a vaccine that helps children younger than age 7 develop immunity to diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough (pertussis). Tdap is a booster immunization given at age 11 or older that offers extended protection from those diseases for adolescents and adults.

The DHHS offers the following advise concerning pertussis immunization:

  • Make sure your child is current on his or her vaccinations. The DTaP vaccination series is recommended for children starting at 2 months of age, and continuing at 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months and 4-6 years of age.
  • If you are pregnant, vaccination with Tdap is needed during every pregnancy to provide some protection to your infant from pertussis until your infant is old enough to be vaccinated.
  • Insist that the adults in your children’s lives also are vaccinated. Babysitters, childcare providers, family members, and others who come in close contact with your children should be vaccinated.
  • Do not forget booster shots. The Tdap booster shot is recommended for any child 7-10 who did not complete the childhood DTaP vaccination series, and anyone 11 and older who has not yet received a Tdap booster. All children 11-12 years of age should receive one dose of Tdap vaccine. Tdap can be administered regardless of the interval since the last tetanus and diphtheria containing vaccine. It is never too late for teenagers or adults to receive the booster if they haven’t already.

“State law requires pertussis vaccinations for pre-school and school-age children, but we know that immunity wanes over the years,” Dr. Cummings said. “A booster shot is a safe and effective way for adolescents and adults to protect themselves and those they love.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pertussis is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe. After fits of many coughs, someone with pertussis often needs to take deep breathes which result in a “whooping” sound. Pertussis most commonly affects infants and young children and can be fatal, especially in babies less than 1 year of age.

The best way to protect against pertussis is immunization.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63


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