A newborn in Snohomish County, Washington, died this week of pertussis, doctors are saying. The baby’s death is the second in the state this year that has been attributed to the disease, also known as whooping cough.
Snohomish County saw a spike in the number of confirmed pertussis cases in the first two months of 2011. Health officials are urging parents to vaccinate their children against the preventable disease, not only to protect them from contracting the illness but also from spreading it.
The baby who died this week was too young for a pertussis vaccination, typically administered at the 2-month well baby check and then again at 4, 6 and 12-18 months old. A final pertussis innocculation is given at around 4 years old.
Whooping cough is highly contagious infection that attacks the lining of breathing passageways causing them to become inflamed and narrowed. Breathing — as well as eating and drinking — becomes difficult. The infection often leads to pneumonia.
Children 4 years old and younger who have not received the DTaP vaccine are most vulnerable to the effects of pertussis.