This week, Washington State declared that whooping cough (pertussis) has reached epidemic levels. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve had more than 600 documented cases in the state, a dramatic increase since last year. The increase puts our new babies at risk.

In clinic I’ve been urging new parents to cocoon their babies. That is, provide a family of protection by having every single child & adult immunized against whooping cough, influenza, and other vaccine preventable illnesses. By surrounding a baby with only immunized people, you cocoon them against serious infections.

Whooping cough is a highly infectious respiratory illness spread by sneezing and coughing that can be deadly to young infants. Getting a Tdap shot is the best way to avoid getting whooping cough. Amidst an epidemic, we worry most about newborns because they are most vulnerable to complications and lack vaccine-protection. If every child and adult that surrounds a newborn gets a Tdap shot, the likelihood of the baby getting whooping cough approaches zero.

Most newborns get whooping cough from their family or adults around them. That’s where an email comes to play.

You’re going to have to be fairly Mama-Papa-Bear about this. You’ll have to show some strength to create a very safe home, even when it feels somewhat over-the-top. As I said to a number of families in clinic today, “It only seems entirely over-the-top-nuts until we lose another newborn to pertussis.” Being smart now will save lives.

Make a new rule: no visits with a newborn until all visitors have had the Tdap shot. Even Grandparents.

Write an email to family and friends to explain.

A sample email for you to use/copy/share –written today by a friend of mine–mother to that darling baby girl born last week:

Hi there,

We are hoping we get to see you and introduce you to our new baby sometime
in the next few months!

Due to the pertussis epidemic around here and the fact that flu
incidence is peaking, I am being a stickler about only having visitors
who have had the flu shot and Tdap vaccine.  We just got back from our
doctor who emphasized how important this is as both – esp pertussis –
are very serious for infants. A Tdap shot should be completed 2 weeks
before hanging out with a newborn.

You can get both at your doctor’s office and at many pharmacies that
do vaccines.  Thanks for understanding!

More Information on Whooping Cough:

  1. What is the Tdap shot?  Quick video summary about the shot. Here’s the blog post about the Tdap shot.
  2. All children, teens, and adults need a Tdap now. Grandparents around newborns need a Tdap now.
  3. Ideally, get the Tdap shot 2 weeks prior to visiting with a newborn. Same is true for a flu shot.
  4. Current data in Washington state on number of positive cases, counties involved, and information on surpassing the epidemic threshold.
  5. Wash your hands, cover your cough, and don’t visit a newborn while sick even if you’ve had a Tdap shot!