“Any infant death due to pertussis is preventable through maternal vaccination,” said Dr. James Watt, chief of the department’s Division of Communicable Disease Control. For confidentiality reasons, the department is not providing any details about the case, such as the infant’s identity or whether the infant or the mother was vaccinated.
Whooping cough is a bacterial infection of the respiratory tract that is highly contagious and especially dangerous for babies, but today, vaccines can offer protection against the disease.
Whooping cough vaccines are effective but not perfect; those who contract the disease after having been vaccinated are less likely to develop a serious infection, according to the CDC. The whooping cough vaccine given to children is 80% to 90% effective, but effectiveness decreases over time.
The infection has early symptoms such as runny nose and fever as well as apnea, or pauses in breathing for babies, which can be life-threatening. Later-stage symptoms include vomiting and fits of rapid coughing.
The disease gets its name from the distinctive sound an infected person may make when inhaling after a coughing fit. According to the CDC, breathing in after coughing so much that all the air is gone from one’s lungs creates a high-pitched “whoop” sound.
A deadly disease for the youngest
“Young infants can have very severe disease from pertussis, as this case tragically illustrates, and they can even die,” Watt said.
Fauci said whooping cough is most dangerous for infants because of their narrow windpipes, which can leave them more susceptible to complications from restricted breathing, one of the symptoms of the infection.
The statement released by the California Department of Public Health said infants can be vaccinated at 6 weeks of age, two weeks earlier than the CDC’s official recommendation. Watt said that the recommendation acts as a guideline and that infants can be vaccinated anywhere between 6 and 9 weeks old; however, if there were to be an outbreak of the disease, he said, the department would encourage parents to vaccinate their children closer to the 6-week mark.
“We’re watching very closely to see if there’s any suggestion of any increasing trend in pertussis,” he said.
Whooping cough on the rise
Although cases of whooping cough dropped precipitously in the mid-20th century, the disease has rebounded in recent years.
Fauci said the recent rise is due to the country’s switch in the 1990s from a whole-cell pertussis vaccine to an acellular vaccine. The acellular vaccine, although less durable than the whole-cell vaccine, caused fewer and less severe side effects in children. To compensate for the vaccine’s decreased durability, the CDC recommends that children get five doses of the vaccine.
“Even when we’re not having an epidemic, pertussis is always there,” Watt said. “It’s always circulating, which means that people are always at risk for pertussis, and particularly, we’re concerned about young infants, who have the most severe disease.”
News credit : Cnn