Why Sarah Michelle Gellar Wants You to Pay Attention to Pertussis
Newborns and young babies are at higher risk for contracting whooping cough. Sarah Michelle Gellar, spokesmom for the Sounds of Pertussis campaign, talks about what parents and caregivers can to do to keep young children safe.
Did you know that Texas is on track to experience the highest number of pertussis cases the state has seen in over 50 years? As of August 27, almost 2,000 cases of whooping have been reported to the CDC. Other states, including Montana, North Carolina, and New Mexico, are experiencing similarly alarming outbreaks.
Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease that produces uncontrollable, violent coughing. During these coughing fits, the person with pertussis often needs to take deep breaths which result in a telltale “whooping” sound.
There is a vaccine for pertussis and receiving immunizations against whooping cough is standard for most young children. However, infants who are not yet old enough to receive the vaccine, and young children who are not yet fully immunized, remain at elevated risk for contracting the disease. In fact, in Texas, over 80 percent of all hospitalizations for whooping cough have been children under one year of age.
What can you do to keep your young child safe? There’s at least one mom who has gone to bat to bring increased awareness about whooping cough prevention to parents — and it’s none other than Sarah Michelle Gellar.
The actress, who has two young children, daughter Charlotte, 4, and son Rocky, 1, has become an active voice for Sounds of Pertussis, a whooping cough awareness campaign from the March of Dimes and Sanofi Pasteur that focuses on what parents can do to prevent their children from getting sick.
Gellar’s message to other moms on behalf of Sound of Pertussis? The most effective step you can take to protect your baby from whooping cough is to make sure you, your partner, the rest of your family and other caregivers and adults who come in close contact with your child get a pertussis vaccine.
“Research shows that when they can trace back where the illness [pertussis] came from, 80 percent of the time, it’s from family members and 50 percent from the parents themselves. I know no parent wants to get their newborn sick,” she recently told BabyZone.
And when it comes to this issue, Gellar isn’t just talking the talk. Whooping cough prevention is something the actress put into practice after the birth of her son Rocky in 2012. “I made sure everyone who came into contact with my newborn was up to date [with their pertussis vaccines].”
Still, does it sound like a potentially awkward conversation starter to ask your great uncle about his vaccine history? In her advice to fellow parents, Gellar also made it clear: Don’t let the topic intimidate you.
“Think of this way, why wouldn’t you ask someone to do something which could stop a potentially fatal illness in your newborn? It’s a simple question and getting the vaccine is equally simple.” One research model even suggests that vaccinating family members of newborns could prevent 76 percent of pertussis cases in infants younger than 3 months.
For a social media twist on the topic of whooping cough, Gellar also unveiled the campaign’s new interactive Facebook app — Breathing Room — that helps parents spread the word to friends and family members about the need to get vaccinated. As she explained, “You add your child’s picture and immediate family and caregivers and anyone in direct contact with your child. The app then gives them information about making the pledge to get the vaccine and even where they can go to get one.”
For those not on Facebook, a quick check of national chain store pharmacies reveals that Rite Aid, CVS, and Walgreen pharmacies all offer some kind of walk-in Tdap booster shot (the pertussis vaccine is usually bundled with vaccines for tetanus and diptheria) or single pertussis booster.
In Texas, as cases of whooping cough continue to rise, state health services issued this message for parents, “Children under two months of age cannot be vaccinated against the disease, so vaccination of their contacts—parents, siblings, care takers, grandparents, healthcare providers—is critical.”
Are you listening?
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