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Experts: Vaccinate Adolescents Against Whooping Cough

Immunizing teens could protect babies against the lethal infection

MONDAY, Nov. 29, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- All adolescents and some adults should be vaccinated against whooping cough (pertussis) to prevent infection and potential transmission to infants, concludes a report by an international group of experts.

The Global Pertussis Initiative has come up with several recommendations to help control whooping cough, which kills 300,000 people -- mostly infants -- each year. Among those recommendations is the introduction of universal vaccination programs for adolescents in North America, as well as immunization efforts for certain groups of adults, such as child-care and health-care workers and parents and relatives of newborn babies.

"Most health-care professionals think that whooping cough is a problem for younger children, but not adolescents or adults. That's incorrect," study author Dr. Kevin Forsyth, of Flinders Medical Center in Adelaide, Australia, said in a prepared statement.

He and his colleagues believe a universal adolescent vaccination program would be a good start to developing whooping cough immunity in at-risk populations.

Forsyth explained that adolescents are a special risk of contracting whooping cough because, without booster shots, the vaccinations they received as children have become ineffective. A new whooping cough vaccine for adolescents and adults was developed about five years ago.

"Now's the time to actually start using it," Forsyth said.

The report appears in the Dec. 15 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about whooping cough.

SOURCE: Infectious Diseases Society of America, news release, Nov. 22, 2004
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