CDC advises whooping cough booster shots for adults, older kids

A nurse in California prepares the vaccine for pertussis, also known as whooping cough.


Justin Sullivan

It's time to think about whopping cough - again.

You may have thought this distinctly unpleasant lung affliction has gone the way of the dinosaurs, but you'd be sadly mistaken: the Center for Disease Control reports that pertussis (Latin for whooping cough, which translates into "through cough") is back in the picture. 

Scientific American reports that 46 states are showing upticks in cases compared with last year, and the situation is especially bad in Washington State, which has declared an epidemic. 

As of July, there were a whopping 18,000 cases in the USA in 2012 alone, says the CDC - levels in alignment with 1959. 

Read more: Myths fuel dangerous decision not to vaccinate children - LiveScience

There's also a problem in the UK: five infants there had died from whooping cough as of July, according to the Guardian. 

What's causing the jump? It's likely that poorly-advised, recent opposition to vaccines is part of the problem.

Although 95 percent of US children are vaccinated against whooping cough, according to Scientific American, 5 percent are not, for reasons ranging from legitimate health concerns to moral or health concerns on the part of parents.

Read more from GlobalPost: Whooping cough: Number of cases increase to level of epidemic

That still translates into a lot of unvaccinated children - and that cuts into "herd immunity," which protects the population as a whole, according to 

The vaccine may also be growing weaker, says Scientific American, which could also account for the illness increase. 

Read more: What Would Happen If We Stopped Vaccinations? - CDC

According to the CDC, almost all children caught whooping cough before the vaccine became widely available - a "normal" childhood disease that used to cause upwards of 9,000 deaths a year. 

Sadly, history may be repeating itself: the CDC adds that diminishing rates of whooping cough vaccines due to largely misguided safety concerns caused deadly epidemics in both the UK and Japan in the 1970s. 

What can we do? The CDC, via MyHealthDaily, suggests that children over 5 and adults get the Tdap booster shot to fully protect themselves. 

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