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The importance of the Tdap booster

In the October 15, 2013 edition of the American Family Physician Journal an article titled Pertussis: A Reemerging Infection highlighted an alarming trend in recent years. This trend is an increasing incidence of Pertussis, also known as whooping cough.


Whooping cough is an acute upper respiratory tract infection. Initially symptoms are very much like a common cold and include runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, feeling run down and mild cough which can last for 1-2 weeks. The infection then progresses into a several week period of severe coughing fits, physicians refer to them as paroxysms.  The coughing fits involve a long series of continuous coughs during a single breath that ends with loud "whoop" sound (Hence the name whooping cough).  An example of the classic cough can be heard by audio clip at (link provided by authors of the article in the American Family Physician). The coughing fits can be quite distressing causing shortness of breath, watery eyes and even vomiting. The final recovery phase of the infection can last an additional 1-2 weeks. The entire infection lasts between 6-7 weeks. Infants are the most at risk for complications requiring hospitalization.


The key to preventing this disease is vaccination. Children should undergo a primary vaccination series by age 6. For older children who were not vaccinated, incompletely vaccinated or delayed in vaccination, standard catch up vaccination schedules are available from your physician. In 2006 the ACIP (CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) recognized the problem of declining immunity in adults. Immunization guidelines now recommend adolescents age 11-18, adults age 18-64 and adults over the age of 65 who might be in contact with children under the age of 12 months receive a single booster of Tdap to prevent this disease.


Vaccinations are a very important part of everyone's health maintenance visit. Please be sure to discuss your immunization status during your next appointment.


For more information on this topic go to


Kathleen M. Curtis MD