Posts Tagged ‘pertussis outbreaks’

How My Sister Helped Save My Daughter From Whooping Cough 

June 19, 2017 21 comments

TamaraSheffieldHeadShotBy Tamara Sheffield, MD, MPA, MPH, Medical Director, Community Health and Prevention, Intermountain Healthcare

In my role as a medical director at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, Utah, I am responsible for Community Health and Prevention.  You could say that I’m a professional advocate for immunizations, since they prevent many illnesses, hospitalizations and even deaths.  In fact, maternal immunizations are one of today’s most promising new preventive health strategies.

By vaccinating pregnant women against certain diseases – like whooping cough (pertussis) and influenza – we are reducing the amount of illness, hospitalization, miscarriage and pre-term labor these women experience as a result of these diseases.

Additionally, maternal vaccines enable pregnant women to pass on protective antibodies to their unborn babies.  These antibodies provide newborns with early, short-term protection against pertussis or flu, during the time when they are too young to receive their own vaccines to prevent these diseases.

For instance, children must be six months of age before they can receive their first flu vaccination, and the DTaP vaccine, which helps prevent whooping cough in children, is administered as a series of five shots (with doses at 2, 4, 6, 15-18 months, and 4-6 years of age). Sadly, there are about 100 pediatric deaths due to influenza each year, and 90% of all deaths associated with whooping cough are among infants, mostly because the thick mucus that accompanies the infection has a severe impact on a baby’s ability to breath.

For an expectant woman, changes in the immune system, heart and lungs during pregnancy make them more prone to illness.  When a pregnant women gets ill, it raises her risk of complications, such as premature labor and delivery.  But research shows that mothers can help protect themselves and their babies by getting vaccinated during pregnancy.

The flu vaccine is recommended at any trimester of each pregnancy. An adult Tdap booster vaccine is recommended during each pregnancy as well – and studies show that the best time for optimal transfer of protective antibodies is at 27-to-36 weeks gestation. The ongoing research continues to indicate that these maternal immunizations are effective at reducing the number of flu and whooping cough-related illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths among infants.

The abundance of scientific evidence on this matter is one reason I am a strong advocate for maternal vaccinations.  However, I have a very personal reason to advocate for maternal vaccinations as well.

You see, I know an amazing 25-year-old young woman who nearly died from whooping cough when she was just three weeks old. 

Alicia Outside ICU at Phoenix Childrens' Hospital

Like many infants who suffer with whooping cough, this beautiful baby girl contracted it from a family member.  During the weeks before delivery, her mother developed a persistent cough that went undiagnosed, and she unknowingly passed whooping cough on to her baby.  Three weeks later, after a couple of incidents where the baby stopped breathing and turned blue, her parents rushed her to the hospital. Read more…

10 Things Parents Who Don’t Vaccinate Their Kids Should Know

It’s not uncommon for a parent who has lost a child to a vaccine preventable disease to try to spare other families from the same agonizing heartache. 

In some cases, these children may have suffered with a preventable disease because they were unvaccinated.  This could be the result of parents who did not have access to certain vaccines, parents who willfully refused a particular vaccine, or in the case of Riley Hughes, infants who were too young to be fully vaccinated.

Riley was a healthy baby boy born in Australia on February 13th, 2015.  At three weeks of age he started exhibiting cold-like symptoms with an occasional cough. When he was just 32 days old, Riley passed away in the arms of his parents.  

pertussis112315While in the hospital, Riley was diagnosed with pertussis, also known as whooping cough.  At that time, the U.S., the UK, Belgium and New Zealand, were already advising expectant women to get an adult Tdap vaccine at 28-32 weeks of pregnancy in order to transfer protective antibodies to their unborn babies.  This practice helps protect infants from pertussis at a time when they are most vulnerable to infection and subsequent complications.  It’s also the only way newborns can benefit from some protective antibodies before they are two months of age and begin receiving the first of five doses of DTaP vaccine to become fully vaccinated against pertussis.

Unfortunately, the Australian government hadn’t adopted this practice until shortly after Riley’s death. Since then, Riley’s parents have made it their mission to educate people about the dangers of whooping cough, and promote the need for vaccination so that no other family would have to suffer like they did.

Sadly, there are still some parents who choose not to vaccinate.  In a plea to these parents, Riley’s mom posted the following list of “things to know” on the Light for Riley Facebook page:


Ten things I want parents who don’t vaccinate their kids to know:

1. There are no cures for most of the diseases we vaccinate against.

2. Even if you choose not to vaccinate, please, please, please make yourselves aware of the symptoms of these potentially fatal diseases. Infections like meningococcal can kill within 24 hours, and every minute counts.

12244586_1518881475089295_4527321516860468835_o3. If you’re really worried about vaccine “toxins”, you don’t want to see what the toxins from Bordetella Pertussis (the bacteria responsible for whooping cough) can do. Trust me – I watched my newborn son die from it. Read more…

Increasing Pertussis Awareness Through Personal Stories

October 12, 2012 9 comments

As her infant son Brady battled pertussis, Kathy shared her hopes and fears with her friends on Facebook.  Her brief, but heartfelt updates revealed the emotional rollercoaster she experienced during the weeks before she had to say her final goodbye to her two month old son.  In the days that followed, Brady’s parents, Jon and Kathy, anguished over their loss and longed to try to save other children from the same fate.

As they mourned the loss their son, their passion for advocacy was born.

They decided that they wanted to help educate others on the dangers of pertussis and the importance of Tdap shots and so they contacted Every Child By Two.  They have since been able to share Brady’s story through various television and newspaper interviews and in a blog post here on Shot of Prevention. They were special guests at a recent immunization conference where they were able to receive valuable education and training from public health communicators.  And most recently, they have agreed to add Brady’s story to the Shot By Shot website, a public resource which hosts personal accounts of vaccine preventable diseases.

Unfortunately, Brady’s story is one of many pertussis stories that can be viewed on the Shot By Shot site.  Visitors can also hear the stories of Kaliah, June, Carter, Gavin, Dylan, Sebanna, Colin, Kaden and others.

As we face outbreaks of pertussis all across this country, infant children who are not yet fully immunized, are increasingly at risk of contracting this dangerous and sometimes deadly disease.  In Washington state alone, there have been 4,307 cases of pertussis reported through October 6th of this year, compared to 495 reported cases in 2011 during the same time period.

This is why we must continue to generate awareness every way we know how.  Sure, there are lots of websites that will explain the disease and provide details about the DTap and Tdap vaccines. However, personal stories have proven effective at educating parents – especially expectant parents – of the need for adult Tdap boosters that can help protect their newborn babies before they are old enough to be vaccinated themselves.

We are thrilled to hear that Brady’s story has already been viewed over 2,300 times on Shot by Shot this week.   We know that parents everywhere want to protect their newborns. But we also know that many parents are unfamiliar with pertussis.  They are unaware of the dangers and often oblivious to the fact that there are many outbreaks occurring all across the country.  However, stories like Brady’s help parents realize that pertussis is a real concern, especially for those too young to be vaccinated.  They learn that they can help protect those vulnerable members of our community by getting themselves vaccinated and ensuring that others that come into contact with young children are also vaccinated.

As Jon and Kathy continue to share Brady’s story, we ask you to do the same.

Email the link to your friends and family. Post it on your Facebook wall. Talk about it with an expectant friend or with other parents you know from work, school or your local playgroup.  And consider that every time you share this story, you just may be helping to save the life of precious child.