North Carolina reports first 2013 infant death from whooping cough

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services recently announced the first infant death in 2013 related to pertussis, a disease more commonly known as whooping cough.

The three-week-old child was from Transylvania County. Whooping cough is a highly contagious illness that typically spreads between people by sneezing or coughing while in close contact.

"Infants cannot begin vaccination against whooping cough until they are two months old and even young children are not fully protected until they have finished a series of vaccinations," Robin Cummings, the acting state health director, said. "That is why it is so important that anyone who lives with or will be around a baby be vaccinated to prevent transmitting the disease."

The DTaP vaccine is given to children younger than age seven to develop immunity to diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. The Tdap booster immunization is given at age 11 and up to offer extended protection from the three diseases for adults and adolescents.

The DHHS recommends that adults make sure their children are current on their vaccinations. The DTaP series is recommended for children starting at two months of age and consists of five doses. Tdap is recommended for pregnant women and adults who will come into contact with children. Tdap booster shots are recommended for any child between the ages of seven and 10 who did not complete the DTaP vaccination series and for anyone aged 11 and older who did not receive the booster.

"State law requires pertussis vaccinations for pre-school and school-age children, but we know that immunity wanes over the years," Cummings said. "A booster shot is a safe and effective way for adolescents and adults to protect themselves and those they love."

The pertussis vaccine is available through all state immunization providers.