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Whooping Cough Increasing Among Teens

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Booster Vaccine

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now considering a proposal to add pertussis to booster vaccines now given to 11- and 12-year-olds. Pediatric infectious disease specialist Sarah Long, MD, says the move could be an important step toward protecting teens and highly vulnerable infants who have not yet been fully vaccinated.

"We are looking at the data right now to get a better understanding of the safety and efficacy of doing this," says Long, who is a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

While whooping cough is rarely life threatening in teens and young adults, spasmodic coughing fits often last for months and can dramatically impact daily life. Outbreaks occur rapidly as a result of being exposed to an infected person.

Zach Graham, who lives in New Hampshire and is a competitive downhill skier, says it took him almost five months to feel normal again after his bout with whooping cough. Early on, his mom says, he had coughing fits that led to vomiting as many as 18 times a day. And even after the racking coughing subsided, lingering weakness caused him to miss much of the ski season.

"My goal was to be on the Junior Olympic team," says Zach, who is now 16. "My coaches and I agreed that I could do it if I set my mind to it, but then I came down with whooping cough. It took so much out of me that there was no way I could train at the level I needed to."

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