Pertussis, also known as the whooping cough is a highly contagious disease. The violent cough and long sick times made this one of the number one killer diseases for infants until the vaccine was developed. Despite the vaccine development Pertussis remains as one of the least controlled preventable childhood disease killers to date, much of which is due to a lack participation in vaccine programs.
The most common way an infant becomes infected from pertussis is from the mother who has direct contact. Most often in pregnancy and within the first months of life of a newborn that breastfeeds there is transfer of maternal antibodies which protects the newborn agains many illnesses. Unfortunately, unless recently immunized, pregnant women have low immunity levels to pertussis and leaves the infant at risk to pertussis infection. A mother can be infected with Pertussis and not know it because it can take as many as 21 days until she has the whopping cough. During these 21 days she can spread this bacteria to many family member of which she has direct contact with. The disease can last anywhere between 6 and 12 weeks. first months of life as the result of the transfer of maternal antibodies during gestation. Pertussis or the Whopping couch is characterized as hacking cough which is followed by a high-pitched gasp for air that sounds like a “whoop”, which is heard especially in children.
Tdap is a vaccine that vaccinates against tetanus, diptheria and pertussis. It is recommended that all women greater than 20 weeks pregnant get the Tdap vaccine so that immunity can be based onot he baby. Additionally, Tdap is recommended for postpartum women so that the do not contract the illness and pass it on to their baby.
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