RALEIGH, N.C. -- A 3-week-old baby has died from pertussis, the respiratory disease commonly known as whooping cough.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services says this is the first infant death from the disease in North Carolina for 2013. The infant was from Transylvania County.
DHHS says pertussis is highly contagious and is usually spread through coughing or sneezing within close proximity of others.
"Infants cannot begin vaccination against whooping cough until they are 2 months old and even young children are not fully protected until they have finished a series of vaccinations," Dr. Robin Cummings, Acting State Health Director and DHHS Deputy Secretary for Health Services, said in a statement. "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."
DHHS advises North Carolininians to make sure children and adults are properly vaccinated. DTap is for children younger than 7 years old. It protects them from diphtheria and tetanus in addition to pertussis. Tdap is the booster shot given to people 11 years old and older.
"State law requires pertussis vaccinations for pre-school and school-age children, but we know that immunity wanes over the years," Dr. Cummings said. "A booster shot is a safe and effective way for adolescents and adults to protect themselves and those they love."
DHHS provided the following information about pertussis:
- Make sure your child is current on his or her vaccinations. The DTaP vaccination series is recommended for children starting at 2 months of age, and continuing at 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months and 4-6 years of age.
- If you are pregnant, vaccination with Tdap is needed during every pregnancy to provide some protection to your infant from pertussis until your infant is old enough to be vaccinated.
- Insist that the adults in your children's lives also are vaccinated. Babysitters, childcare providers, family members, and others who come in close contact with your children should be vaccinated.
- Do not forget booster shots. The Tdap booster shot is recommended for any child 7-10 who did not complete the childhood DTaP vaccination series, and anyone 11 and older who has not yet received a Tdap booster. All children 11-12 years of age should receive one dose of Tdap vaccine. Tdap can be administered regardless of the interval since the last tetanus and diphtheria containing vaccine. It is never too late for teenagers or adults to receive the booster if they haven't already.
Pertussis vaccine is available through all state immunization providers, including private health care providers and local health departments. Some health care providers may charge an administration fee.