Whooping Cough Cases Prompt Officials To Push Vaccinations

Nov 13, 2013

Credit Centers for Disease Control

State health officials are urging parents to get their teenagers immunized in the wake of a whooping cough outbreak at a northeast Albuquerque high school.

Even if teens had the pertussis vaccination early on, they need to get boosters to prevent infection and transmission of the highly contagious illness.

Dr. Chad Smelser is an epidemiologist with the New Mexico Department of Health. He said teens need the booster because, over time, immunity fades.

“The most recent shots that’ve been developed for teenagers just have been around for the last several years, and those are to provide booster doses for kids between the ages of 11 and 19,” Dr. Smelser said.

Thirty-two cases of the illness were reported at La Cueva High School recently.  The infection isn’t particularly deadly in teens or healthy adults, but it spreads quickly and young children, expectant moms and infants are vulnerable.  

Smelser said the most effective way to protect babies is to vaccinate women during their pregnancies so that babies are already inoculated when they're born. Also, having all household members with babies vaccinated provides a sort of cocoon of protecti0n around them, until they are old enough to receive a vaccination and booster shot.

According to The Mayo Clinic, "whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. In many people, it's marked by a severe hacking cough followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like 'whoop.'"

Last year in New Mexico a record number of whooping cough cases were reported - more than 900. Two people died, including one infant. More than 48,000 cases were reported nationwide.

Editor's Note: The definition of whooping cough in this story came from the Mayo Clinic. We regret our failure to give full and accurate attribution. In addition, this story originally reported that wrapping an infant in a blanket could provide protection against pertussis infection. We regret that error and it has been corrected.