SOURCE: Georgia Academy of Family Physicians

November 09, 2009 09:00 ET

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

ATLANTA, GA--(Marketwire - November 9, 2009) - 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 is still very much a public health concern; health experts estimate that up to 600,000 cases occur each year in adults alone. In Georgia, whooping cough cases are on the rise. According to the Georgia Division of Public Health, the number of whooping cough cases in the state in the first half of this year is more than double that of the same time period last year.

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 not previously vaccinated. For adults, it is recommended to replace a single dose of Td vaccine (tetanus and diphtheria toxoids) if they received their last dose of Td more than 10 years earlier and they have not previously received Tdap.

"It's important that adolescents and adults are vaccinated against whooping cough to help boost immunity from this contagious disease," said Brian K. Nadolne, MD, Family Medicine Department at Northside Hospital, Nadolne Family Medicine and Preventive Care, Georgia. "Many adults and adolescents may not know that there is a one-time booster shot that offers protection against whooping cough."

The AAFP, with help from the Georgia 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, hacking 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 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 more than 10 years earlier and they have not previously received Tdap.

Family physicians can offer expert information on whooping cough vaccination for adolescents and adults. The Georgia 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 3,500 cases of whooping cough were reported in U.S. adults ages 20 years and older in 2007, 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 Georgia Academy of Family Physicians (GAFP)

The GAFP chapter, established in 1947, strives to promote the health of the citizens of Georgia by advancing the specialty of Family Medicine through education, advocacy and service to family physicians in the State of Georgia.

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