Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier
WebMD

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine
WebMD

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    Community

    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Children's Vaccines Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Why Whooping Cough Is Rising Despite a New Vaccine

By Lorie Parch
WebMD Feature

When a new whooping cough vaccine was introduced in the late 1990s, there were hopes for a lower infection rate. But there's been a puzzling trend: a spike in new cases.

More than 48,000 Americans had whooping cough in 2012 -- a 50-year high. The disease, also known as pertussis, brings on fits of coughing that can last for weeks in adults and older kids. For babies, especially very young ones, the symptoms can be life-threatening.

Recommended Related to Children's Vaccines

Understanding Tetanus -- Prevention

Because established tetanus is often fatal, even with expert treatment, prevention is of paramount importance. The two major means of preventing tetanus are immunization and wound care. There are two types of immunization for any disease -- active and passive. Active immunization is when vaccines are given to a person so that the immune system can make antibodies to kill the infecting germ. In the U.S., health officials recommend active immunization of infants and children with DTaP -- diphtheria,...

Read the Understanding Tetanus -- Prevention article > >

What's behind the increase in whooping cough? Experts aren't sure, but they have some theories:

  • The newer pertussis vaccine does not protect against disease for as long as the previous version.
  • Parents who don't let their kids get vaccines may be creating more opportunities for whooping cough outbreaks.
  • Even vaccinated people may still be carriers and spread whooping cough without realizing it.

The Newer Vaccine Doesn't Last as Long

Before 1997, the whooping cough vaccine used in the U.S. was a type known as a "whole cell" vaccine. It used all parts of the bacteria that causes whooping cough, explains Litjen Tan, PhD, chief strategy officer of the Immunization Action Coalition.

The vaccine was effective, but it had side effects, including sore arms, crying, fussiness, anxiety, and occasional seizures.

The newer vaccine, known as an "acellular" vaccine, only contains parts of the whooping cough bacteria. It has fewer side effects than the old version, Tan says.

At first, "the data showed that acellular worked as well as whole cell," Tan says. "But as time went on, immunity just started waning in children who got the acellular vaccine."

In other words, the new vaccine doesn't seem to protect people as long as the old one. And as the protection of the vaccine wears off, the number of whooping cough cases may rise.

Today on WebMD

Baby getting vaccinated
Is there a link? Get the facts.
syringes and graph illustration
Get a customized vaccine schedule.
 
baby getting a vaccine
Know the benefits and the risk
nurse holding syringe in front of girl
Should your child have it?
 

What To Know About The HPV Vaccine
Article
24 Kid Illnesses Parents Should Know
Slideshow
 
Nausea and Vomiting Remedies Slideshow
Article
Managing Immunization Schedules For Kids
Video
 

Doctor administering vaccine to toddler
Video
gloved hand holding syringe
Article
 
infant receiving injection
Tool
pills
Quiz
 

WebMD Special Sections