More than 100 Texans have been diagnosed with pertussis in Bell and McLennan counties since February. The disease is also known as whooping cough for the distinct noise infected people make when they try to breathe after a coughing fit. Pertussis is highly contagious and particularly serious for infants under one year of age who are not old enough for vaccination, says C. Mary Healy, MD, a Houston pediatrician. Since 2000, 34 Texas babies have died from pertussis. Last week, a 9-week-old baby from Idaho died from whooping cough. Dr. Healy says the best way to protect babies from this potentially deadly disease is through a process called “cocooning.”
“Cocooning helps protect a newborn by encouraging everyone who will be in contact with the infant (mom, family members and any other caregivers) to be vaccinated against pertussis, preferably before the baby’s birth or discharge from the hospital,” says Dr. Healy. “The idea behind cocooning is to provide a protective shield around the baby against the disease during the first year of life.
“It is imperative that we make every effort to protect young infants through prevention strategies like immunizing mothers during pregnancy and cocooning until the elimination of fatal infant pertussis becomes a reality.”