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Whooping Cough Returns

With whooping cough a growing problem in the United States, the CDC also now recommends that all adults get a one-time Tdap booster followed with Td (covering tetanus and diphtheria) booster every 10 years. In the past, adults were urged to get a Td booster only every 10 years. But it has become clear that pertussis bacteria continue to circulate.

By some estimates, there are up to a million cases of whooping cough in the United States each year. Most cases occur in adults and are similar enough to a humdrum cold or flu that they aren’t diagnosed by a doctor. That guy in the cubicle next to yours who hacked for three months? He may have had whooping cough without knowing it.

While the disease is rarely a critical illness in adults, they are just as capable as a sickly toddler of spreading the germ to infants, who can die or have serious illness as a result of it. Over half of babies younger than 1 year old with pertussis need to be hospitalized.

The Tdap shot can cause a sore arm or fever, but that’s a small price to pay for the children you’ll be protecting from the disease by not getting it yourself, says Poland.

“We’re having major outbreaks of pertussis in the United States today,” said Poland. “When we’ve looked at this problem and considered the best way to protect people, we’ve decided that a sore arm or a fever, or even a day in bed, was reasonable tradeoff to save the lives of a children.”

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