Whooping Cough On the Rise

In the United States, manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline has submitted a booster for FDA approval: "Boostrix" would add a pertussis component to the vaccine cocktail against tetanus and diphtheria that is currently given to 10- to 18-year-olds. Competitor Aventis Pasteur plans to follow suit by targeting adults as well.

Adolescents and adults who have lost immunity become more likely to get the disease, and because it is less severe in older individuals — not much more than a bad cough — it can often go undiagnosed. The problem then arises when they pass the disease on to babies.

A booster would cut down on this source of transmission, and many physicians, like Dr. Blaise Congeni, the director of infectious disease at Akron Children's Hospital, are "tremendously supportive" of the idea.

Adds Congeni, there also needs to be increased awareness among doctors about the prevalence of the disease. "Many young doctors have never made the diagnosis," he says. "If you can catch it in incubation period, you can prevent it."

And for now, according to Murphy, "the message is for parents with young infants to get your child vaccinated on time."

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