Officials at the Iowa Department of Public Health have confirmed the death of a young child in southeast Iowa from pertussis or whooping cough. Department medical director, Patricia Quinlisk, says whooping cough is caused by bacteria and causes coughing spells so severe that it becomes difficult for children to eat, drink or breathe.
Quinlisk says it is fairly unusual, but “unfortunately we have had children die every couple of years from this disease.” She says it’s unfortunate because the disease is preventable by getting everyone vaccinated. Doctor Quinlisk says children under five are most susceptible to the disease.
Quinlisk says the vaccine is required for kids going to kindergarten, but she says the smallest kids are most vulnerable because they have smaller airways. She says kids need five doses of the vaccine, and because of that they have to be sure that all the people around the children are vaccinated. Quinlisk says the vaccine for adults is relatively new.
She says pertussis was added to the tetanus booster five or six years ago, so if you have had the tetanus booster, then you should also be immune to the disease and not spread it to young kids. Quinlisk says adults are the key to stopping the spread of the disease. Quinlisk says it’s particularly important for the parents of young children to get the tetanus booster is up to date, and other adults should too as adults can spread the disease with “fairly minor” interchange with a child.
Quinlisk says it can sometimes be confusing trying to keep up on all the shots a child needs, but your doctor should be able to give you a history. She also suggests you ask your doctor about your history too. She says when you go in to get your child vaccinated, ask the doctor about your vaccinations too.
Quinlisk says if you are a grandparent or someone who will watch a child, you should also check to see if you need to get your vaccinations updated. For more information about pertussis, visit the Iowa Department of Public Health’s website here.