Whooping Cough: Infant Pertussis Infection Now Linked To Siblings

First Posted: Sep 08, 2015 12:41 PM EDT

Previous studies suggest that mothers are likely the primary source of whooping cough infection when it comes to their baby. However, researchers now believe that whooping cough, otherwise known as pertussis, may be more likely to come through a sibling, instead. The findings are published in the journal Pediatrics.

In this recent study, researchers examined 1,306 babies in seven states that were diagnosed with the disease between 2006 and 2013. Seventy-five percent of the babies contracted the infection through a sibling when compared to 20 percent who were infected by their mothers. Fathers also accounted for another 10 percent of infection rates whiole infection from grandparents and aunts or uncles were much lower.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American College of Nurse-Midwives recommends that pregnant mothers be vaccinated for maximum protection to the baby. The pertussis vaccine has helped reduce the annual number of deaths significantly. However, recent studies show that it is on the rise again as many mothers are not getting vaccinated.  

"Vaccination rates are high for U.S. children and teens. The shots provide good protection for a few years, and although effectiveness tends to wear off, kids should continue to get vaccinated," lead author Tami Skoff, a researcher at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said via the Daily Mail.

Today, just about 15 to 20 percent of U.S. pregnant women get whooping cough shots, according to the Daily Mail. Though mothers can't transmit the disease directly to a fetus during pregnancy, infected women can transmit it if they cough during childbirth. Skoff further noted that "the benefits of maternal vaccination during pregnancy are two-fold: protect both the mom and the infant."

Whooping cough is highly contagious, and typically starts out with cold-like symptoms; more severe issues that follow including extreme coughing fits, according to the Mayo Clinic. Five vaccine doses are recommended by age 6, along with a booster shot by age 11 or 12 in children. Booster shots are also recommended for adults.

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