Pregnant women urged to get pertussis vaccine amid outbreak

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SAN DIEGO – Doctors at Rady Children’s Hospital are urging pregnant women to get vaccinated for pertussis because of a countywide outbreak of the disease informally known as “whooping cough.”

Researchers have found that women who get a booster shot between 27 and 36 weeks of their pregnancy can pass along protective antibodies to their unborn child, according to the hospital.  

pregnant-cribs-webMost pertussis fatalities occur in infants in their first two months of life, when they are too young to receive the vaccination. In 2010, when a recent record of 1,100 pertussis cases were reported in San Diego County, the two people who died of the disease were infants.

The hospital cited data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that most babies get pertussis from family members, with mothers responsible for 30-40 percent of infant infections.

The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency reports that the number of pertussis cases in the region this year has already surpassed last year’s total, with more than 450 diagnoses since Jan. 1.  

A total of 431 cases were reported in all of last year, with only 63 cases at this point. Hospital officials said pertussis cases traditionally peak during the summer.