SOURCE: San Diego Academy of Family Physicians

January 05, 2010 12:00 ET

San Diego Academy of Family Physicians: Whooping Cough Booster Shot Recommended for Adolescents and Adults

Survey Shows Most Adults Don't Know That Whooping Cough Remains Widespread in the United States

SAN DIEGO, CA--(Marketwire - January 5, 2010) - Many people may think of whooping cough as a disease of the past -- something eradicated generations ago. However, the number of cases reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that whooping cough (pertussis) is still very much a public health concern; health experts estimate that up to 600,000 cases occur each year in adults alone. In fact, whooping cough cases are on the rise in San Diego. According to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency, the number of whooping cough cases in San Diego County from January 2009 through November 2009 is more than double the total cases reported in 2008.

To help protect against whooping cough, the CDC and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommend that most adolescents and adults get a single dose of the whooping cough vaccine, also called "Tdap" vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis). Tdap is a one-time booster shot that is recommended for most adolescents and adults, if they have not been previously vaccinated with Tdap.

Adolescents aged 11 to 18 years should receive a single dose of Tdap instead of Td if they have completed the recommended childhood DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis) or DTP (diphtheria, tetanus toxoids and whole-cell pertussis) vaccination series and have not received Td or Tdap. For adults, a single shot of Tdap is recommended to replace a single dose of Td vaccine (tetanus and diphtheria toxoids) if they received their last dose of Td 10 or more years earlier and they have not previously received Tdap.

"People may not realize that whooping cough vaccination wears off over the years, leaving many susceptible to contracting this contagious disease," said Martin C. Schulman, MD, Encinitas Personal Healthcare, Inc., and member of the Board of Governors of the San Diego Academy of Family Physicians. "I talk to my adolescent and adult patients about the potential impact of whooping cough, and make sure they are up-to-date with the recommended vaccinations, including Tdap. Travel medicine visits also provide a great opportunity for catching up on overdue vaccinations."

The AAFP, with help from the San Diego chapter, has launched "Vaccination Matters: Help Protect Families from Whooping Cough," a public health initiative designed to help people understand the importance of whooping cough vaccination for adolescents and adults.

A recent national survey revealed that more than three-quarters of adults (76 percent) didn't know or didn't think that whooping cough remains widespread in the United States. Many adults (61 percent) are not even aware that there is a vaccine for whooping cough.

Whooping Cough Can Be Serious

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, can have a significant impact on a person's health if contracted. A highly contagious respiratory disease, whooping cough can cause a persistent cough severe enough to cause vomiting and even break ribs. The illness may last for up to three months or more, and may lead to pneumonia, hospitalization and missed work or school days.

People with whooping cough may not be aware they have it and can spread it to others, including infants and children. Babies who have not received all of their shots for whooping cough are especially vulnerable to infection and complications.

Vaccines Are Not Just For Babies and New Parents

Protection against whooping cough wears off approximately five to 10 years after completion of childhood vaccination, leaving adolescents and adults susceptible to whooping cough. In the survey, 72 percent of adults were unsure or didn't know this was possible.

The survey found that most adults (73 percent) believed they were up-to-date on their vaccinations. The CDC estimates that only 2.1 percent of adults received a Tdap vaccine between 2005 and 2007. For adults, the Tdap vaccine is recommended to replace a single dose of Td vaccine (tetanus and diphtheria toxoids) if they received their last dose of Td 10 or more years earlier and they have not previously received Tdap.

Family physicians can offer expert information on whooping cough vaccination for adolescents and adults. The San Diego Academy of Family Physicians encourages adults to talk to their physician about whooping cough and the Tdap vaccine.

The "Vaccination Matters: Help Protect Families from Whooping Cough" program is made possible through funding and support from GlaxoSmithKline.

Visit www.FamilyDoctor.org/VaccinationMatters for more information.

About Whooping Cough

Whooping cough starts off like the common cold, but the illness can get worse. It is a highly contagious respiratory disease and may include symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, fever and severe coughing fits. While more than 3,000 cases of whooping cough were reported in U.S. adults ages 20 years and older in 2008, many more cases may go unreported. In fact, health experts estimate that up to 600,000 cases occur in adults each year.

About the Survey -- Abbreviated Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive via the QuickQuery(SM) online omnibus service on behalf of the American Academy of Family Physicians and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) from July 8 to 10, 2009 among 2,021 adults ages 18 and older. GSK funded and provided editorial support for the survey. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. A complete survey methodology, including weighting variables can be made available upon request.

About the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)

Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents more than 94,600 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care. Nearly one in four of all office visits are made to family physicians. That is 208 million office visits each year -- nearly 83 million more than the next largest medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America's underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty.

In the increasingly fragmented world of health care where many medical specialties limit their practice to a particular organ, disease, age or sex, family physicians are dedicated to treating the whole person across the full spectrum of ages. Family medicine's cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care. To learn more about the American Academy of Family Physicians and about the specialty of family medicine, please visit www.AAFP.org. For more information about health care, health conditions, and wellness, please visit www.FamilyDoctor.org.

About the San Diego Academy of Family Physicians

The purpose of the San Diego Academy of Family Physicians is to enhance, strengthen and promote the specialty of family medicine, to promote professional and personal growth for its members, and to advocate for family centered care for all Californians, especially those living in San Diego. Additionally we strive to bring members together at a local level. This includes activities which promote good hospital relations for family practice, better programs for continuing medical education, and improved professional and public relations. For more information, please visit www.SanDiegoAFP.org.

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