This month's health tip from the Massachusetts Medical Society, the statewide association of physicians, deals with pertussis.
Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by bacteria and spread from person to person by coughing or sneezing. The condition has a long infectious period: from two weeks before coughing begins through three weeks after cough onset. The long infectious period contributes to its spread, especially in schools and day care programs.
Pertussis can affect children and adults and be fatal to infants and young children, especially babies less than 1-year-old. The number of cases has risen dramatically in the U.S. (Massachusetts has recorded triple the number of cases this year over last), caused by low immunization rates, declining immunity in humans, and childhood vaccines losing effectiveness over time.
Vaccination is the best protection: DTaP for infants and children and Tdap for preteens, teens and adults. Schedules begin with shots from birth through six years, and booster shots are recommended for adults 19 and older. Vaccination of pregnant women and those in their households is strongly recommended to protect newborn babies.
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