Cases of whooping cough are rising in both Nebraska and nationwide and now pregnant women are being urged to get a shot to prevent the potentially-deadly disease, also known as pertussis.
Epidemiologist Patty Quinlisk says the warning for vaccinations follows a frightening resurgence of the dreaded childhood disease that’s claimed 16 lives across the country.
“(The vaccine) will protect the mother from getting pertussis and bringing it into her child during the first couple of months of the baby’s life when it’s too young to be protected,” Quinlisk said. “The mother also will give the baby some immunity before it’s born, so the baby is born with a little immunity.”
Whooping cough is highly contagious. Its name comes from the sound children make as they gasp for breath. Nebraska has recorded more than 170 cases this year, more than three times the number from last year.
Quinlisk believes the new warning from the government’s vaccine advisory council underscores how dangerous the disease can be.
“I think it does, especially in light of the fact that we’re having outbreaks of whooping cough all over the place and of course, the more there is in the community, the (better) chance there is of a baby getting exposed and becoming seriously ill,” Quinlisk said.
More than 32,000 cases are reported nationwide this year — putting 2012 on track to become the worst year for whooping cough since 1959.
Quinlisk notes the expert panel is also pushing for older children and adults to be vaccinated.