Palm Beach County Baby Dies from Whooping Cough

Officials urge children, adults to get Vaccinated

A 2-month-old baby in Palm Beach County died recently from whooping cough at a hospital in the western part of the Palm Beach County, according to the health department.

The bacterial infection is relatively rare but has been on the rise in Florida and other parts of the nation in recent years. It is especially dangerous to infants whose immune systems are not fully developed, as well as others with weakened immunity, health officials said.

The bacteria, known as Bordetella pertussis, spreads through droplets expelled in a cough or sneeze from an adult or child who may have few or no symptoms and may not even know they are infected.

“We’re still investigating how the baby got it,” said Tim O’Connor, a spokesman for the Palm Beach County Health Department. “The assumption is a family member or some adult passed it along.”

The disease can be prevented with a common vaccine called Tdap or DTaP, which also protects against tetanus and diphtheria.

Doctors give babies Tdap shots at 2, 4 and 6 months of age to build immunity. Children get another shot at 18 months and another before entering school. Health officials recommend they get a booster shot before or during high school.

But the vaccine is thought to wane after about 10 years, and many adults have never been vaccinated against the infection, which can easily be mistaken for a common cold in its early stages, officials said.

“It’s really important now, more than ever, for adults to get the Tdap vaccine if they haven’t been immunized recently,” Dr. Alina Alonso, director of the county health department, said in a statement.

Officials urge any adult who will be around an infant — including parents, siblings, grandparents, baby sitters — to be vaccinated.

“All adults are encouraged to consult with their medical provider and get the tetanus/pertussis booster if eligible,” Alonso said. “The more people are protected greatly reduces the chances of passing pertussis along to a baby.”

Whooping cough killed thousands annually decades ago, before the vaccine came into wide use. Since then, the disease has a cyclical pattern of re-emerging in some regions every three to five years, said Jeff Dimond, a spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A major outbreak in California last year — with 9,100 cases and 10 infant deaths — pushed the number of U.S. cases to 27,500.

Florida has seen a steady rise in cases over the past decade, from 67 in 2000 to a record 497 in 2009, then down to 329 last year. So far this year, whooping cough is up by about 10 percent to 227 cases, the state Department of Health reported.

Palm Beach County has had 16 cases so far this year, up from 4 during the same period last year. But Broward has had just one case this year and Orange County is down to 12 infections from 16.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommend all parents or expecting parents of newborns to be vaccinated with the Tetanus, Diptheria and Pertussis booster.

This booster shot is available in our office.  Please call (561) 362-6789 to schedule your appointment.


By Bob LaMendola, Sun Sentinel

Comments are closed.