Whooping cough is a highly contagious illness that is spread from person to person usually by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others. It can be serious at any age, but is life-threatening in newborns and infants who are too young to be fully vaccinated. Many infants who get whooping cough are infected by caregivers who might not even know they have the disease.
"Babies and young children are not fully immunized until they have finished a series of vaccinations, so their only protection against whooping cough is the people around them," said State Health Director Dr. Laura Gerald. "Anyone who lives with or will be around a baby should be vaccinated."
State health officials recommend that children receive the Tdap booster by age 11, but say it is never too late for teenagers or adults to receive the booster if they haven't already.
"State law requires pertussis vaccinations for pre-school and school-age children, but we know that immunity wanes over the years," Dr. Gerald said. "A booster shot is a safe and effective way for adolescents and adults to protect themselves and those they love."
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services announced in March that the Tdap vaccine, which protects against pertussis, would be available at no-cost to anyone 7 years and older for a limited time. There may be an administration fee depending on the health care provider. The vaccine is still readily available through the N.C. Immunization Network, which includes private health care providers and local health departments.
The Cumberland County Department of Public Health is offering the Tdap vaccine free to the public during regular business hours.