"Cocooning" may prevent infant pertussis

According to research presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies’ Annual Meeting 2011 in Denver, the hospitalization rate for infants with pertussis may be reduced by vaccinating their household contacts.

The practice of cocooning is an indirect method of protecting infants against pertussis, also known as whooping cough. In cocooning, parents and other contacts are vaccinated with the tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis vaccine, Pediatric Super Site reports.

According to research conducted by Gretchen Banks of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, 14 percent to 35 percent of infants acquired pertussis from their mothers and six percent to 18 percent acquired pertussis from their fathers.

“Many infants acquire pertussis from a household contact,” Banks said, according to Pediatric Super Site. “Cocooning is a promising strategy to prevent infant pertussis cases. Vaccinating the parents immediately with Tdap post-partum is an attractive approach.”

Researchers estimate that if both parents were vaccinated, 505 to 2,255 parents out of 100,000 parents of infants would need to receive vaccination to prevent one hospitalization of an infant aged zero to five months. Data from 2003 showed that there were 79 to 144 pertussis hospitalizations per 100,000 infants aged zero to four months, Pediatric Super Site reports. The same estimates found that if only mothers were vaccinated, 765 to 3,222 would need to be vaccinated to prevent one hospitalization, of 1,487 to 7,517 fathers.

“Vaccinating parents is projected to reduce the rates of infant pertussis hospitalizations,” Banks said, according to Pedatric Super Site. “As few as 505 mothers would need to be vaccinated with Tdap to prevent one infant pertussis hospitalization. Vaccinating fathers also is anticipated to provide additional benefits.”