The Alabama Department of Public Health has confirmed that an outbreak of pertussis – also known as whooping cough – in the state was caused by children recently vaccinated against the contagious illness.
The number of people with confirmed whooping cough has risen to 19 in an outbreak linked to local schools in Chambers County, where it spread from recently vaccinated to children to adults.
The Alabama Department of Public Health began investigating the outbreak earlier this month after 6 students came down with the highly-contagious illness. All 19 of the infected adults and children in Chambers County with whooping cough received the pertussis vaccination.
AL.com reports: Dr. Karen Landers, assistant state health officer, said the pertussis vaccine is not 100 percent effective. Infants receive several doses during their first year of life, and boosters in early and late childhood. Doctors also recommend pertussis vaccines to pregnant women and unvaccinated adults.
The illness is particularly dangerous for babies younger than 12 months old who have not received the full course of vaccinations. Complications can lead to hospitalization and even death.
However despite the recent outbreak of potentially deadly pertussis caused by the pertussis vaccine, Landers said the best way to protect babies is still to vaccinate them and ensure all adult caretakers have also received vaccinations.
“I would advise any parent – first of all, you want to make sure your child is up-to-date on her vaccines,” Landers said. “We want mothers to be vaccinated during pregnancy. We want children to receive the vaccine on time. Adults that are going to be around infants should make sure they are up to date on their vaccines too.”
Vaccinated patients who become infected with pertussis have less severe illness than those who have not received the shots, Landers said. All the patients identified in the Chambers County outbreak have received treatment from local physicians and are recovering, she said.
Symptoms of pertussis include runny nose, fever and cough. The nickname whooping cough comes from the whooping sound patients make as they try to inhale between violent coughing fits.
Parents who believe their child might be infected with pertussis should contact the child’s doctor about testing.