Common and Contagious
Whooping cough is apparently happening to a lot of people. Nearly 600,000 American adults contract pertussis each year. It's so contagious and so prevalent that pediatrician and father Dr. Chris Patton of Nashville's Old Harding Pediatric Associates says that, according to a study done at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, "One in three adults who came to the Emergency Room with a chief complaint of cough for more than 10 days tested positive for pertussis."
Although most kids receive pertussis protection with their DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis) vaccinations as babies, the immunity against the disease wears off five to 10 years after the last shot. That means that the majority of the population is at risk. Add in that a non-immune person living in the same household as someone with whooping cough has a 90 percent chance of becoming infected and you've got a recipe for disaster.
The good news is that scientists recently developed a booster vaccine for anyone over age 11 who hasn't received a tetanus and diphtheria booster dose in the last 10 or more years. Even better news: the shot is available at local doctor's offices right now. But Dr. Patton advises, "The initial production of the vaccine is behind the demand. We have it currently available, but it's a month-to-month availability at this point."