Public health experts are now recommending that pregnant women get the vaccine for whooping cough during pregnancy. The recommendation is in response to the growing outbreak of the disease in the U.S. So far, there are more than 32,000 reported cases of whooping cough across the country. If the trend holds, it’s on track to be the highest number of cases since 1959.
An advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made the new recommendation this week. The group says expectant mothers should be vaccinated for every pregnancy, and ideally, during the third trimester.
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Dr. Jeff Duchin is Chief of Epidemiology at Seattle King County Public Health and is on the CDC advisory committee. Duchin says the goal is to insure that both mother and baby get enough of the antibodies.
“That not only protects the mother from infections, but it also provides very good protection to the infants during their most vulnerable time period when their immune systems are immature and just developing, those first months of life,” Duchin says.
Whooping cough is a respiratory infection and is highly contagious. The disease can be fatal to babies. The CDC notes that up to 40 percent of infant infections were transmitted by mothers.
To date, Washington has reported more than 4,300 cases of whooping cough. In April the state declared an epidemic.