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Children's Health

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CDC: Whooping Cough Heading to a 50-Year High

Babies Most Vulnerable; Pregnant Women Need Booster

Vaccine Change May Be Factor in Rise continued...

It does not appear that anti-vaccination sentiment among parents has contributed to either the national rise in cases or the Washington State epidemic, she says.

She added that the CDC is investigating whether the switch from whole-cell to acellular pertussis vaccine in 1997 may have contributed to the increase, especially among young teens.

The acellular vaccine is less likely to cause fever and injection site reactions, and it may carry a lower risk for a very rare but serious neurological complication. But there are also suggestions that its protection may not last as long as the whole-cell version of the vaccine.

Booster Vaccination Rates Low

Mary Selecky of the Washington State Department of Health said the 3,000 cases reported so far this year in the state is triple the number seen during all of 2011.

"For every case that we know about we suspect that there are many cases out there that we don't know about," she says.

Selecky reiterated Schuchat's call for pregnant women and anyone else who comes into contact with babies to be vaccinated.

A booster pertussis, tetanus, and diphtheria (Tdap) vaccine has been available since 2005, but only about 8% of adults have gotten it, Schuchat said.

The CDC recommends Tdap booster for adults aged 19-64 who have not received Tdap previously. Pregnant women should wait until after the 20th week of pregnancy or preferably in the third trimester. If not given during pregnancy, then the dose should be given as soon as possible after delivery.

"I know that we can do better than this and we need to do better," Schuchat said.

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