Reported cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, have been on the rise since the 1980s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Whooping cough is becoming more common, unfortunately, for a variety of reasons – maybe declining vaccination rates or waning immunity from our previous vaccines," says Dr. Tina Ardon, a family medicine specialist with Mayo Clinic. "That’s why we’re encouraging adults to get vaccinated at least once in their adult life. And pregnant women are encouraged to get a tetanus and whooping cough vaccine in their third trimester of pregnancy to help protect their baby, as well."
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Pregnant women who were immunized early in the third trimester were associated with the highest concentrations of pertussis antibodies according to a recent study published in JAMA.
"Pertussis is a bacterial infection that can cause upper respiratory symptoms that can be dangerous to our younger patients but also cause a cough that can last several weeks to even months for some of our patients, as well," says Dr. Ardon.
It's referred to as whooping coughing because of the "whooping" sound an infected person makes when gasping for air during a coughing fit.
Anyone can become infected with pertussis; however it can lead to serious complications, even death, for infants under 1. Nearly half of all babies under 1 in the U.S. who have pertussis end up being treated in the hospital. Complications are most serious for babies under 6 months.
Vaccination is the best prevention. There are two types of vaccines available to protect people against pertussis: