Have you or your child been vaccinated against whooping cough? If not, talk to your doctor. The disease, which can lead to painful bouts of extended coughing and can be deadly in children, is making a resurgence, according to an article out Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
After a vaccine against whooping cough, or pertussis, was introduced in the 1940s, the number of people developing the disease dropped sharply, from about 157 per 100,000 people to less than 1 per 100,000 people. But that number has now risen almost ten-fold.
Thomas Frieden, M.D., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told us last week during a visit to Consumer Reports that one main reason for the increase is that the type of vaccine used today doesn't last as long as the previous one.
"We're going to see more cases this year than we have in decades," Frieden said. "The new vaccine doesn't cause as many bad reactions as the old one did, but its protection may wane."
The NEJM article argues that researchers need to develop a new vaccine that provides longer-lasting coverage. But they emphasize that until then the most important thing is for people to get the shot, as the vaccine still offers substantial protection against whooping cough. That's especially true for children (the first dose should be at 2 months old) and in adults 65 and older who are in contact with infants.
Epidemic Pertussis in 2012: The Resurgence of a Vaccine-Preventable Disease [New England Journal of Medicine]