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Whooping Cough: What You Need to Know

An Interview With CDC Infectious Disease Expert Tom Clark

continued...

Are we seeing more outbreaks of whooping cough, and if so, why?

It definitely comes and goes. There are frequently outbreaks. But most are kind of small clusters of dozens of cases. Large, community-wide outbreaks are pretty rare. Occasionally, every 3 to 5 years, we see big increases in states or regions of the country.

Transmission is a definite and recognized cycle. It's thought that as transmission declines, the number of people in the total population who are susceptible gradually increases because the disease isn't circulating as much, and protection from the vaccine wanes over time. And then transmission gradually increases and runs through the susceptible population until it starts to decline again.

Do other family members need to take preventive antibiotics or vaccine boosters if they've been exposed?

They do. It's always important to make sure that kids are up-to-date with their immunizations. With the Tdap booster, make sure adolescents and adults are up-to-date with their immunizations. The person with pertussis should be treated, and people who are in close contact should get preventive antibiotics.

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Reviewed on July 19, 2010

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