Monday, March 24, 2014

Texas Baby Dies of Pertussis

The first Texan to die of pertussis this year was just 27 days old, reports the Austin-American Statesman. The infant was too young to be vaccinated against the highly contagious disease also known as whooping cough. Physicians urge everyone who is in contact with infants to get vaccinated against pertussis to prevent another tragedy like this one.

Before the pertussis vaccine, 9,000 children died every year from the disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. After the vaccine that number plummeted to 10-20 deaths per year, but annual cases in Texas are now at a 54-year high.

Protecting the public from pertussis, as well as other vaccine-preventable diseases, is a job for pediatric and adult physicians alike, says Ernest Buck, MD, a Corpus Christi pediatrician and chair of the Texas Medical Association’s Council on Health Promotion.

“For years, vaccines were the exclusive realm of the pediatric provider,” says Dr. Buck. “No more! Physicians caring for adults must now embrace this effective public health tool. Many of this year’s deaths due to influenza, and this child’s death due to pertussis, indicate our need to improve our ability to quickly and effectively upgrade practice patterns among our medical colleagues.

“The community of medicine needs to speak with one clear and concerted voice that vaccines are good and safe medicine. They are the standard of care,” Dr. Buck says. “Exceptions should be made only after full discussions between doctor and patient.”

TMA’s Be Wise — ImmunizeSM program provides vaccine resources for patients and physicians, including the handout Facts About Pertussis which explains the risks of getting pertussis, how it is spread, and the importance of vaccination.

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