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Whooping Cough Rising Concern in Massachusetts


HOLYOKE, Mass. (WGGB) — Two Wellesley teens are the latest to be diagnosed with pertussis, also know as whooping cough. Massachusetts is one of many states that has seen a drastic increase in cases.

Last year, there were about 200. So far in 2012, there have been over 600.

Dr. David Norton at Holyoke Pediatric Associates says the danger can’t be underestimated.

“Our own practice lost a two-month-old baby last winter to pertussis, so this is not a disease that has gone away,” said Norton.

Pertussis is passed like a cold through sneezing and direct contact.

Norton says at first, symptoms even resemble those of a cold. But the relentless cough doesn’t go away for weeks. It can be so hard that people vomit and break their ribs. It’s common not to have a fever. It is treated with antibiotics.

Norton said anyone can get it though it’s most dangerous for those already with respiratory problems and very young children. That’s because while there are five vaccinations beginning at two months old, the immunity takes time to build.

“So, we’re now immunizing mom’s with the Tdap vaccine that has pertussis protection and any other adults that are going to be around that child, caretakers, grandparents,” said Norton.

Norton said, though, that even those who are vaccinated are coming down with the illness, though in a less severe form. This might signal a reason for the surge in cases.

“There are some concerns even on the part of the Centers for Disease Control that although we have this Tdap vaccine, there may be some waning immunity and it’s obviously not a hundred percent,” said Norton. “So, we think it makes for a milder disease but it doesn’t mean we’ve wiped it out obviously.”

The recommended immunization schedule is as follows:
(DTap is for children, Tdap is for older ages).

  • Children: One dose of DTaP each at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months and at 4-6 years-old.
  • Teens: One dose of Tdap between 11 and 18-years-old.
  • Adults: One dose of Tdap if they did not receive dose as teen.
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