October 30, 2014

Health Department urges pregnant women to get a whooping cough shot

Iowa Department of Public Health officials are urging pregnant women to follow the advice of an expert panel and get a shot to prevent whooping cough. State Epidemiologist Patricia Quinlisk says the warning, issued last week, follows a frightening resurgence of the dreaded childhood disease that has claimed 16 lives across the country.

“(The vaccine) will protect the mother from getting pertussis and bringing it into her child during the first couple of months of the baby’s life when it’s too young to be protected,” Quinlisk said. “The mother also will give the baby some immunity before it is born, so the baby is born with a little immunity.”

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is highly contagious. It’s name comes from the sound children make as they gasp for breath. Quinlisk believes the new warning from the government’s vaccine advisory council underscores how dangerous the disease can be.

“I think it does, especially in light of the fact that we’re having outbreaks of whooping cough all over the place and of course, the more there is in the community, the (better) chance there is of a baby getting exposed and becoming seriously ill,” Quinlisk said.

More than 32,000 cases, including the 16 deaths, have been reported this year — putting 2012 on track to become the nation’s worst year for whooping cough since 1959. Quinlisk notes the expert panel is also pushing for older children and adults to be vaccinated.