CDC Panel Advises Pregnant Women to Get Whooping Cough Vaccine

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The CDC's Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices changed its recommendation regarding whether or not pregnant women should get vaccinated for whooping cough on Wednesday, according to reports by the Los Angeles Times and other media outlets. The committee voted unanimously to begin recommending that pregnant women be given the Tdap vaccine either while they are pregnant or shortly after birth.

The recommendation comes on the heels of what health officials are calling the worst outbreak of whooping cough in the last 50 years. More than 18,000 cases had been reported as of mid-July, according to reports by ABC News and other outlets at the time.

Here is some of the key information to emerge regarding the CDC's new recommendations and the whooping cough outbreak.

* The CDC keeps a running tally of new cases each year, and recently updated its numbers to report that there have now been 32,000 confirmed cases of whooping cough as of Oct. 15.

* Whooping cough, more formally known as pertussis, is a bacterial infection characterized by violent and uncontrollable coughing, which can be so strong that the person makes a "whooping" sound due to lack of oxygen.

* As the CDC noted in its breakdown of cases, infants account not only for the vast majority of cases, but also most of the 16 deaths that have been attributed to whooping cough so far this year. Infants under 3 months of age are particularly vulnerable.

* The CDC panel changed the recommendation regarding Tdap vaccinations and pregnant women because pertussis is a disease of close contact. Mothers who are vaccinated while pregnant can also pass antibodies through the placenta wall to their babies to protect them, according to the Los Angeles Times report.

* According to a report by HealthDay News, the Tdap vaccine is the only other vaccine besides the flu shot which has been deemed safe for women to receive during pregnancy.

* Health officials originally began recommending that pregnant women get the Tdap vaccine because some 30 to 40 percent of babies that develop whooping cough are thought to have contracted it from their mothers, according to the HealthDay News report.

* The original recommendation was that a woman receive a single Tdap vaccine during her first pregnancy if she had not been vaccinated before. Wednesday's change means that the CDC is now recommending that women get a Tdap vaccination with every pregnancy, preferably when they are between 20 and 33 weeks gestation, according to the Los Angeles Times report.

Vanessa Evans is a musician and freelance writer based in Michigan, with a lifelong interest in health and nutrition issues.

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